John Macoun was born in Ireland in 1831 and came to Upper Canada in 1850. He studied botany in his spare time, later turning professional. Macoun's "Catalogue of Canadian Plants" "placed the study of systematic botany in Canada on sound footing". Over 100,000 of the plants he collected are in the National Herbarium in Ottawa. Macoun botanized vast areas, sometimes suffering great hardships. His Peace River expedition of 1875 reduced him to a starvation diet of moldy pemmican. Macoun visited the western plains in 1879 and 1880 and demolished the theory that this area was a desert, claiming that "the so-called arid country was one of unsurpassed fertility..." This conclusion played a large part in shifting the CPR main line and the focus of settlement from the North Saskatchewan River Valley to the southern plains. Macoun died in 1920. The Botanist stamps were designed by Roger Hill of Toronto. The designs feature portrait and a collage of dried plant specimens, as an indication of their lifetime interest in the study of plants.
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