Samuel Hearne (hûrn), 1745–92, British fur trader, explorer in N Canada. He entered the British navy at the age of 11 and saw service in the naval battles of the Seven Years War. In 1766 he was hired by the Hudson's Bay Company, and he was mate of the sloop Churchill, serving at and about Fort Prince of Wales (now Fort Churchill) until 1768, when he became mate of the brigantine Charlotte. In 1769 he was chosen to head a land expedition to the north to investigate native reports of a great river and large copper mines. His first two attempts met with failure, but finally in Dec., 1770, guided by a Chipewyan, he set off on the third and successful expedition, which took him across the barren grounds to the Coppermine River and down to its mouth. He came back by Great Slave Lake and arrived at Fort Prince of Wales on June 30, 1772. Although the copper mines proved disappointing, the trip was of great importance. In spite of his inaccurate geographical data, Hearne opened up an unknown territory. He gave an accurate and valuable account of the Chipewyan, and he proved that there was no short Northwest Passage. In June, 1774, Hearne set out from York Factory and established Cumberland House for the Saskatchewan trade, the first inland post of the Hudson's Bay Company. He returned in 1775 and set off immediately again for the west but was recalled to Fort Prince of Wales, where he was put in charge until the French captured the fort in 1782. Hearne made his way to England, but returned to Canada in 1783, where he remained until 1787. His Journey from Prince of Wales Fort on Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean appeared in 1795.
See the Champlain Society editions of that work (ed. by J. B. Tyrrell, 1911) and of his later journals (ed. by J. B. Tyrrell, 1934, repr. 1968). See also selections from his Journey (ed. by F. Mowat, 1958, repr. 1968); A. Laut, Pathfinders of the West (1904, repr. 1969); G. Speck, Samuel Hearne and the Northwest Passage (1963).