Manitoba Historical Society
     Keeping history alive for over 142 years

Memorable Manitobans: George Back (1796-1878)

Explorer, artist.

Born at Stockport, England in 1796, he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 12. He was a French prisoner of war from 1809 to 1814. In 1817 Back volunteered for duty aboard one of the first of the arctic expeditions of the post-Napoleonic period. This service brought him the acquaintanceship of Lieutenant John Franklin, who chose Back to accompany his 1819 expedition to Repulse Bay. This expedition spent a winter at Cumberland House. For this and subsequent expeditions, Back’s watercolours and drawings became essential to Franklin’s published narratives. The originals on which the Franklin illustrations were based still survive, virtually unknown. In 1833 Back himself led another expedition, which began from Lake Winnipeg and explored extensively in the Back River region. Another expedition in HMS Terror in 1836-7 was less successful. Back settled down to become the London doyen of arctic exploration, serving on innumerable committees that advised the admiralty on search expeditions for Sir John Franklin. He had a reputation as a womanizer. Back’s principal publication was his Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition to the Mouth of the Great Fish River (1836), which went through several editions and was translated into a number of languages including French and German. He is commemorated by the Back siding on the Herchmer Subdivision of the Hudson Bay Railway.

See also:

George Back, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online


Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 20 July 2018

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

Search the collection by word or phrase, name, place, occupation or other text:

Custom Search

Browse surnames beginning with:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z | 2017

Send corrections and additions to the Memorable Manitobans Administrator at

Criteria for Memorable Manitobans | Suggest a Memorable Manitoban  | Our Inspiration | Acknowledgements

Support the MHS

MHS YouTube Channel

Back to top of page

For queries on the above page, please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home  |  Terms & Conditions  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy  |  Donations Policy

© 1998-2021 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.