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ROTTERMUND, ÉDOUARD-SYLVESTRE DE, Count de ROTTERMUND, chemist, miller, justice of the peace, inventor, and office holder; b. c. 1812 in the province of Volhynia (U.S.S.R.), son of François de Rottermund, Count de Rottermund, and Rosalie de Kaminska, Countess de Rottermund; m. 15 May 1845 Margueritte-Cordelia Debartzch, daughter of Pierre-Dominique Debartzch*; d. 2 Dec. 1859 in Montreux, Switzerland.

Édouard-Sylvestre de Rottermund was born in Russian Poland but little else is known of his early life. He arrived in Canada from Paris in June 1843 and the next year applied to William Edmond Logan*, the new director of the Geological Survey of Canada, for the post of chemist. Logan stated that Rottermund had excellent testimonials and had studied at the École polytechnique in Paris under Jean-Baptiste Dumas. Taken by Logan on an exploratory trip in 1844, Rottermund complained continuously about the insects, the hard work, the canoeing, and the camping, and had to be sent back to Montreal. Officially appointed on 20 Dec. 1844, he absented himself from his laboratory duties often, but the patient Logan explained, “He has been in love, and is to get married. . . . I fancy he will do, though, perhaps, he will require some management.” After his marriage in May 1845, Rottermund spent much of his time at the Debartzch home in Saint-Césaire. He persisted in his refusal to comply with Logan’s requests and, early in 1846, resigned pleading family business. Logan was not quit of him, however, for in April 1846 Rottermund demanded that Provincial Secretary Dominick Daly* name him director of an independent chemical survey separate from Logan’s geological work. This controversy brought Governor Lord Cathcart into the matter and the Legislative Assembly requested all documentation in the case. Logan’s correspondence with Rottermund shows great patience in the face of evasions, delays, and non-cooperation, from which Logan concluded, “Mr. de Rottermund’s conduct in the whole of this appeared to me very extraordinary.”

During his employment with the geological survey, Rottermund wrote a short report on Upper Canada’s mineral springs which was published in 1846 without Logan’s acquiescence. This report was attacked in Montreal’s British American Journal of Medical and Physical Science in March 1847 by Henry Holmes Croft*, professor of chemistry at King’s College (University of Toronto) and Canada’s pre-eminent chemist. In Croft’s view, the report, which shows little understanding of chemistry, was a work of pure imagination. Rottermund counter-attacked in the journal the following month with a virulent, mostly ad hominem response, but the controversy died out late that year.

By 1846 Rottermund was operating a grist-mill at Saint-Césaire and on 22 June he had become a naturalized citizen. He put his name forward for the magistracy in November and on 28 Jan. 1847 he qualified as a justice of the peace. That year he also patented new designs for a grist-mill and a flour sifter.

In 1849, when the geological survey’s report for 1847–48 appeared, Rottermund wrote letters to L’Avenir and the British American Journal viciously attacking the chemical work of his successor, Thomas Sterry Hunt*. Hunt remained quiet until urged by friends to publish a rebuttal, which he did in January 1850 in the British American Journal, easily disposing of his opponent’s erroneous chemical ideas. Croft entered the fray with a letter to the Globe backing Hunt and dubbing Rottermund a charlatan. The controversy became so heated that the editor of the British American Journal refused to allow Rottermund further replies. His business affairs seemed to run into troubles about the same time and he was sued by Antoine-Aimé Dorion* in 1851.

Early 1854 found Rottermund in Paris, making the acquaintance of Napoleon III and the major figures of French chemistry and geology, who seem to have commented favourably on his “discoveries.” At this time the provincial secretary, Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau*, prompted by Rottermund’s brother-in-law, Lewis Thomas Drummond*, requested him to use his influence in Paris to obtain from the French government replacements for the books, maps, and government specimens lost in the burning of the Parliament Building in Montreal in 1849. Rottermund carried out this request. On his return to Canada late in 1854, he testified before the legislature’s select committee on the geological survey, criticizing Logan. In 1855 controversy was kindled anew by Rottermund’s report to the corporation of the city of Quebec stating his belief that an abundant, workable deposit of pure coal underlay the Upper Town. Although the survey had already shown such a deposit to be impossible, Rottermund raised doubts about Logan’s competence in geology.

Now that he was claiming to be a geologist as well as a chemist, his personal charm (to which Logan attested) and connections garnered for him the position of inspector of mines for the Crown Lands Department. In this capacity he undertook an entirely unnecessary geological survey of the shores of lakes Superior and Huron and wrote two reports on this work in 1856 and 1857. Edward John Chapman*, professor of mineralogy at the University of Toronto and an outstanding geologist, reviewed the first report in the Canadian Journal, revealing geological inaccuracies and curious methods, and concluded, “We look in vain for a single new fact of any practical or scientific value.” At this time Rottermund began signing himself as “former professor of analytical chemistry at l’École Normale de Bruxelles,” which seems an improbable claim. According to his own statement he was “recognized by the leading chemists of l’Académie des sciences,” but in Canada he was generally seen as a fraud. After a career swirling in controversy, he left Canada in 1857 or 1858 and died in 1859 in Switzerland at the age of 47.

Richard A. Jarrell

[Édouard-Sylvestre de Rottermund, Count de Rottermund, is the author of Report of E. S. de Rottermund, Esquire, chemical assistant to the Geological Survey of the province (Montreal, 1846), also published as Rapport de E. S. de Rottermund, écuyer, chimiste de l’exploration géologique de la province (Montréal, 1846). The report was also issued as part of Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1846, app.WW. The report is republished in Report and critiques of E. S. de Rottermund, Esq., late chemical assistant to the Geological Survey of Canada, in 1846 (Montreal, 1850). The report section of this booklet reprints app.WW in its entirety, and the critique section reprints the correspondence arising out of the report, which was first published as the following articles in British American Journal of Medical and Physical Science (Montreal): H. [H.] Croft, “Critical remarks on the labours of E. S. de Rottermund, Esq., late chemist to the provincial geological survey,” 2 (1846–47): 289–92; É.-[S.] de Rottermund, “To the editor of the British American Journal,” 2 (1846–47): 318, and “Reply to Professor Croft’s ‘Critical remarks,’” 3 (1847–48): 10–14; H. [H.] Croft, “Reply to Mr. De Rottermund,” 3 (1847–48): 36–39, and “Critical remarks on the labours of Mr. de Rottermund, late chemist to the Geological Survey, no.II,” 3 (1847–48): 62–63; É.-S. de Rottermund, “Observations sur la partie chimique du rapport de progrès pour l’année 1847–8, de l’exploration géologique du Canada,” 5 (1849–50): 201–6; and T. S. Hunt, “Réponse aux observations de É.-S. de Rottermund, Écr., sur la partie chimique du rapport de progrès pour l’année 1847–8, de l’exploration géologique du Canada,” 5 (1849–50): 230–33. For a continuation of this debate see Rottermund’s letter in L’Avenir of 5 Oct. 1850, and Croft’s reply in the Globe of 14 Nov. 1850.

Rottermund’s first account of his surveying expedition is found in his Report on the exploration of lakes Superior & Huron, by Count de Rottermund ([Toronto, 1856]), also published as Rapport sur l’exploration des lacs Supérieur et Huron, par le comte de Rottermund ([Toronto, 1856]) and as Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1856, app.37. A review of this account is found in E. J. Chapman, “Report on the exploration of lakes Superior and Huron, by the Count de Rottermund,” Canadian Journal (Toronto), new ser., 1 (1856): 446–52. Rottermund’s second report of his surveying expedition is found in Second rapport sur l’exploration des lacs Supérieur et Huron par le comte de Rottermund (Toronto, 1857), which was also published as Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1857, app.5. Rottermund’s other writings include “Note sur les mines aurifères de Saint-Laurent situées dans le Bas-Canada (district de Québec),” Annales des mines (Paris), 5e sér., 4 (1853): 443–50; “Note de M. de Rottermund sur un instrument qu’il a établi pour mesurer les distances et les niveaux,” Soc. géologique de France, Bull. (Paris), sér.2, 11 (1853–54): 230–32; and Rapport géologique de M. de Rottermund à son honneur le maire de Québec ([Québec, 1855]).  r.a.j.]

AUM, P 58, U, Rottermund à Moreau, 18 déc. 1851. PAC, RG 4, C1, 157, file 629; 175, file 3524; 198, file 2334; 200, file 2598; 226, file 1619; 348, file 752; 369, file 1335. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis; Sketches of celebrated Canadians. B. J. Harrington, Life of Sir William E. Logan, Kt., LL.D., F.R.S., F.G.S., &c., first director of the Geological Survey of Canada . . . (Montreal, 1883). Ludwik Kos-Rabcewics-Zubkowski, The Poles in Canada (Ottawa and Montreal, 1968). Morris Zaslow, Reading the rocks: the story of the Geological Survey of Canada, 1842–1972 (Toronto and Ottawa, 1975).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Richard A. Jarrell, “ROTTERMUND, ÉDOUARD-SYLVESTRE DE, Count de ROTTERMUND,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 17, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/rottermund_edouard_sylvestre_de_8E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/rottermund_edouard_sylvestre_de_8E.html
Author of Article:   Richard A. Jarrell
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   June 17, 2024