David Thompson

Facts about David Thompson

David Thompson died at 86 years old
Born: April 30, 1770
Birthplace: London, England
Best known as: The explorer who mapped Western Canada in the 18th century


David Thompson Biography

David Thompson was an 18th century explorer who mapped more than 1.5 million square miles of Western Canada.

Born into poverty, he was educated at a charity school and recruited as an indentured servant to the Hudson’s Bay Company when he was 14 years old.

Sent to Canada to work in the fur trade, Thompson showed a keen interest in surveying and an aptitude for mathematics. Recuperating from a serious injury when he was 18 gave him the opportunity to be tutored in practical astronomy, geography and cartography.

In 1797 Thompson left the Hudson’s Bay Company to work for a rival, where he could focus more on exploring and mapping than trapping and trading.

By the time Thompson retired in 1812, he’d investigated the major rivers of Western Canada and many of their tributaries, and had traveled the Columbia from it’s mouth at the Pacific Ocean to it’s source in southeastern British Columbia.

He and his family settled in the Montreal region, and Thompson went to work on a narrative of his explorations and an atlas of his maps.

Thompson was unsuccessful in getting them published and died almost as poor as he was born.

Now, however, his work is celebrated and his achievements are honored, especially in Canada.

Extra credit

David Thompson’s accomplishments owe a lot to his wife, Charlotte Small. She was a Cree-Scottish girl when they married (she was 13, he was 29), and her knowledge of customs and languages was indispensable… Together, they had 13 children (four of whom died; five of whom were with them when they lived in the wilds of Western Canada)… Thompson and Small were married for 58 years and died within three months of each other.


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