Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Robert “Bob” Thistlethwaite (1909-1983)

Engineer, civil servant.

Born at Winnipeg on 1 May 1909, the son of John Laurence Thistlethwaite (1881-1965) and Florence Emma Garnet Garrett (1882-1966), and brother of John L. Thistlethwaite, he attained a BSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Manitoba with with a gold medalist standing in third and fourth year subjects. Early employment involved all-season surveying and mapping for railroads in Western Canada as well as work in South America. In 1936, he joined the Topographical Survey Department of the Canadian government and worked in the North West Territories, and handled survey work for oil companies (1937-1943) in Ecuador and Colombia. He returned to the federal civil service in 1944, working at the Hydrographic Section and helped map the Columbia River basin in British Columbia. Following this, he returned to South America, taking employment in Peru with a an exploratory survey company. In 1951, he took charge of the Legal Surveys Section with the department and was made an assistant to the Surveyor-General (1952). He succeeded B. W. Waugh as Canada’s sixth Surveyor-General (1953-1971), as well as Chief of Mines and Technical Surveys, Legal Surveys, and Aeronautical Charts Division, and Chairman of the Board for Dominion Land Surveyors. Also included in his position was responsibility for the Canada Lands Survey Act and preparation of electoral maps. Following his retirement in 1971, he moved from Ottawa to British Columbia, settling at Victoria for many year before being diagnosed with ALS. His pastimes included golfing and languages. He returned to Winnipeg in September 1983, and died shortly thereafter, on 14 October 1983.


Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“City man gets top survey post,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 November 1953, page 16.

Obituary [Florence Emma Thistlethwaite], Winnipeg Free Press, 14 April 1966, page 34.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 17 October 1983, page 37.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 11 June 2014

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