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Signatures Reveal Birthplace of World-Renowned Marine Biologist

Connie MacFarlane

Children's signatures discovered on an old plaster wall behind a hundred years of paint and wallpaper reveal the birthplace and childhood home of world renowned scientist, Dr. Constance Ida MacFarlane.

During the restoration of Charlottetown's historic guest home School Street House, the signatures of Miss MacFarlane and her sister were discovered almost a century after they were written.

Dr. MacFarlane was born in 1904 and became an esteemed Marine Botanist, instrumental in the evolution of the Irish moss industry and a scientist well before her time.

Dr Irene Novaczek, Marine Botanist & Director of the Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island describes the significance of Dr. MacFarlane's work by saying,

In an era in which most women confined their interests to home and family, Connie MacFarlane distinguished herself by not only completing university studies in botany, but by going on to engage in scientific research which helped lay the basis for the discipline of marine botany in Eastern Canada. Throughout her long and active career, she documented the extent of commercially valuable seaplants such as Irish moss, and promoted their use for food and other applications, helping to put Miminegash PEI on the map as the "Irish moss capital of the world."

Irish moss is a major source of carrageenan, commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer in processed foods and products, including ice cream, beer, wine and toothpaste.

Dr. Constance Ida MacFarlane was born in Charlottetown, PEI in 1904. After graduating from Prince of Wales College in 1924, Dalhousie University (BA, 1929, M.Sc. 1931), she did post-graduate studies on marine algae at the University of Liverpool, England. From 1949-1970, Miss MacFarlane was Director of the Seaweeds Division of the Nova Scotia Research Foundation.
Connie MacFarlane
She was internationally recognized for her research into the ecology and distribution of seaweeds, which was fundamental to the industrial development of seaweed in the Atlantic Provinces. Seaweed, for Miss MacFarlane, was more than an academic fascination. Her hobby was collecting seaweed from around the world. She bequeathed her huge collection of dry plants specimens to the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax, her research and papers have gone to the Nova Scotia Archives.

Throughout her career, Miss MacFarlane considered herself primarily a teacher, whether her students were in school, fishermen, harvesters, government officials, lawyers or industrialists. She wrote, "...as in the way with teaching, I also learned much from my students particularly the fishermen who, of necessity, are resourceful people."

Dr. MacFarlane established several awards at the University of Prince Edward Island through her estate two of which are dedicated to the memory of her father, Henry Havelock MacFarlane. Through the scholarships, the MacFarlane family wished to acknowledge a spirit of service and dedication, both to her Island heritage and her lifelong career in the botanical sciences.