James Wilson Robertson


James Wilson Robertson, agriculturalist and educational promoter, was born in Scotland in 1857 and immigrated to Canada with his parents in 1875. He became a farmer and from 1886 to 1890 was professor of dairying at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph. In 1890 he was appointed dairy commissioner for Canada and agriculturalist at the Dominion government's Central Experimental Farm at Ottawa; and from 1895 to 1904 he was commissioner of agriculture and dairying for Canada. He was principal of Macdonald College at Ste. Anne de Bellevue from 1905 to 1910.

With Sir William Macdonald, he was instrumental in promoting many significant educational programmes. The Macdonald-Robertson "movement," as their initiative came to be known, was responsible for introducing home economics, nature studies and elementary agricultural courses in the public school curriculum. They also provided funding and instructors for some of the first manual training programmes in Canadian schools.

Robertson received honorary degrees from several Canadian and American universities in recognition of his work in advancing the cause of "progressive education." Indeed, he was one of the leaders of the progressive education movement in Canada and a mentor to enthusiasts such as John Wesley Gibson in British Columbia.

Robertson died in Ottawa on 20 March, 1930.

The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th edn.)