Robert Gordon Williamson was born on 2 November 1931 at Oxley, Staffordshire, England. He immigrated to Canada in 1952 and was employed at a series of jobs; but while wintering at Ft. Simpson, Northwest Territories, he began recording Dené folklore as an independent initiative. This work was later published in Anthropologica, and Williamson's extensive record of scholarship in cultural anthropology and ethnology can be dated from this period forward. Between July 1953 and October 1954 while based at Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, he learned Inuktitut and extended his ethnological experience by travelling throughout Cumberland Sound. In 1954 Williamson began studying at Carleton University, earning a BA in anthropology in 1957; he earned a PhD from the Royal University, Uppsala, Sweden, in 1974. During the summers while working toward his first degree, Williamson was employed with the Department of Northern Affairs. In 1958 he joined the Department of Northern Affairs on a full-time basis, where he established their Eskimology section, founded the first Eskimo language journal, Inuktitut; and became Welfare and Rehabilitation Superintendent for the district of Keewatin, dealing primarily with social issues. He resigned in 1963, remaining in Rankin Inlet doing private research on a Canada Council grant. His career with the University of Saskatchewan began at the Centre for Community Studies, with a study of Fringe Saulteaux near Kamsack, Saskatchewan; by 1964 he had joined the department of Anthropology as a lecturer and was an associate director with the Institute for Northern Studies. He was quickly promoted: assistant professor in 1965; associate professor in 1967; full professor in 1973. In addition, Williamson served for over a decade as the director of the University's Arctic Research and Training Centre. In 1966 he was elected by acclamation in the first of his two terms as member for Keewatin to the Legislative Council of the NWT. Williamson has worked on behalf of numerous organizations, including the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, and the CBC Northern Service. He was invested into the Order of Canada in 1983. Upon his retirement from the University in 1999 Williamson was named Professor Emeritus, and at the fall 2000 convocation ceremony, was recognized with the JWG Ivany Internationalization Award.