Owen Beverly Beattie

Owen Beverly Beattie, anthropologist, professor (b at Victoria, BC 3 June 1949). A professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, Beattie gained international attention in 1984 for his investigation of the 1845 Franklin expedition disaster. His specialized knowledge of human skeletal biology and forensic anthropology has led Beattie to assist the RCMP and other agencies in criminal investigations and accidents, including the Hinton rail disaster in central Alberta. In 1996 Beattie was part of a forensic team sent to Rwanda to assist in the identification of victims of the 1994 genocide. The results of that work were presented as evidence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.

By applying modern forensic techniques to the mystery of the destruction of the discovery expedition commanded by Sir John Franklin, Beattie uncovered physical evidence supporting 19th-century Inuit accounts of cannibalism among Franklin's crew. Bones recovered on the surface of King William Island also revealed elevated lead levels, providing important evidence that the health of expedition crewmen might have been compromised by factors other than flawed decision-making or the rigours of the climate. Through the exhumation in 1984 and 1986 of the frozen bodies of Petty Officer John Torrington, Able-bodied Seaman John Hartnell and Royal Marine William Braine, on Beechy Island, Beattie was able to trace the source of the lead to the expedition's tinned food supply.

Beattie also investigated another Arctic mass disaster - the disappearance in 1719 of an English expedition commanded by Captain James Knight. Excavations of Knight's winter quarters conducted in 1989-92 raised questions about the conventional historical interpretation that Knight's men died of starvation on Marble Island, an outcrop off the northwest coast of Hudson Bay. Beattie has published the results of his research widely, both in scholarly journals and in a series of best-selling books, most notably Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition and Dead Silence: The Greatest Mystery in Arctic Discovery. Beattie's research has also been featured in documentary television.