archives art gallery museum
Intro Sir Wilfred Grenfell IGA Lantern Slides Timeline Glossary

Sir Wilfred Grenfell

In 1892, medical missionary Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell visited Newfoundland and Labrador aboard the medical ship, the Albert, to investigate reports of inadequate medical conditions among fishermen on the Labrador. Grenfell travelled as far north as Hopedale and treated 900 patients. The following year, he established the first mission hospital at Battle Harbour, Labrador. This was rapidly followed by the acquisition of medical steamers to serve both the settler and fishing populations, the establishment of hospitals, nursing stations and schools on the Northern Peninsula and the Canadian Labrador, and the opening of an orphanage. The Grenfell mission expanded beyond medical work to encompass social welfare and community development programmes.

Grenfell was an enthusiastic and vibrant man, who combined a passion for social reform with an intense enjoyment of life. As well as a doctor and surgeon, he was a preacher, photographer, Justice of the Peace, seaman, cartographer, writer, lecturer and artist. He conducted religious services on the Labrador, served as a magistrate for the Newfoundland government, raised funds through lecture tours, frequently utilizing his own photographs, and published extensively on northern Newfoundland and Labrador, including works illustrated with his own whimsical drawings. Grenfell became a figure of international stature, whose popularity was enhanced by an widely-publicised incident in 1908, in which Grenfell survived a night on drifting ice.

Grenfell was the recipient of many awards, including an Honourary Doctorate in Medicine from Oxford (1907), the Murchison Prize from the Royal Geographical Society (1911) for his cartographic work, and a knighthood (1927).

For a biographical sketch and description of records, see Wilfred Grenfell fonds