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Robert Foulis

Robert Foulis was an inventor, civil engineer, artist and entrepreneur. Originally from Scotland, Foulis moved to Canada in 1818 and eventually settled in Saint John. He was appointed deputy land surveyor in 1822. While surveying the upper St. John River for the feasibility of steam shipping, he also noted the rock types occurring along the river. Foulis completed geological surveys for various companies around the Maritimes. He also collected and archived a large collection of geological specimens and fossils. He became involved with the building of several early steamboats and the first Saint John harbour ferry.

Foulis founded the province's first iron foundry in 1825 and a school of arts in 1838, both in Saint John. He invented a steam foghorn and a gas light apparatus that was later used in lighthouses. Like his contemporary Abraham Gesner, Foulis was an extraordinary man whose interest in natural science and invention led him down a rocky financial path. Unfortunately, both Foulis and Gesner met with frustration as they attempted to exploit the geological New Brunswick’s geological resources. The invention of an illuminating fuel distillation process and the right to mine albertite, a bitumen found at Albert Mines, New Brunswick, ultimately caused problems for both men.