Dr Ian Jackson (1935-2017)

We at the Hakluyt Society were deeply saddened to receive the news of the death of Dr Ian Jackson, on 22 September. He had made outstanding contributions to the work of the Society, which he joined in the 1960s, by serving on Council, editing three volumes and delivering the Annual Lecture in 2005.

Ian Jackson Brazil 11 Feb 2017
Dr Ian Jackson (1935-2017) on the Amazon river on his 82nd birthday. Brazil, 11 February 2017. Photo credit: Mrs Merlyn Jackson.


Ian Jackson was born in Keighley, Yorkshire in 1935 and studied geography at London and McGill Universities. His career had an unusual range, as he worked for institutions as varied as the Canadian International Geophysical Year, the London School of Economics, the Government of Canada and the United Nations (serving in Geneva and in New York).

In 1957-8 as a graduate research student he was part of Operation Hazen at the Canadian Defence Research Board weather and research station at Lake Hazen on Ellesmere Island where the team was subjected to temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius for 121 days and a long isolation from the outside world when their radio failed. Ian’s lively account of this adventure was published in 2002 in Does Anyone Read Lake Hazen?

In his later years Ian lived in New England and finally in Montreal, apart from extensive periods in a small cottage near Whitby in his native Yorkshire which he acquired while transcribing the fascinating manuscript journals of William Scoresby the Younger in the Whitby Museum. These were later published in three volumes in the Hakluyt Society’s third series as The Arctic Whaling Journals of William Scoresby the Younger, between 2003 and 2009. The Society’s Annual Lecture in 2005 was given by Ian and published by the Society as Fort Yukon: The Hudson’s Bay Company in Russian America. Ian was also the historical advisor to the exhibition ‘Cook and Canada – A Reputation in the Making’ at Whitby’s Captain Cook Memorial Museum in 2009.

Jackson Scoresby

As an example of his style, we might quote the final point made in his Annual Lecture, prefaced by the tantalising remark: ‘I cannot resist closing this lecture with a story that I have waited forty years or so to tell.’ In 1867 the United States paid Russia seven million dollars for Alaska, a price that has generally been regarded as a bargain. In fact, Jackson explained, ‘when Edward Stoeckl, the Russian Minister, arrived in Washington to negotiate the sale, he was under instructions from his government to try to get five million. And if a buyer pays 40% more than the seller would have accepted, it is not a bargain.’

Ian will be greatly missed.


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