Billings came from a family of farmers and studied from 1839 Jura. In 1844 he was admitted to the bar. In addition, he was an amateur geologist and paleontologist. He also worked as a journalist. 1852 to 1856 he was editor of the Ottawa Citizen. In 1854 his first scientific publication in paleontology in the Journal of the Canadian Institute in Toronto, whose member he was in the same year. In 1856 he founded the journal Canadian Naturalist and Geologist, in which he also twenty years published his work (among other scientific journals such as the American Journal of Science and Arts in New Haven and the Geological Magazine in London). 1856 then turned to all of paleontology as the first paleontologist, who was employed by the Geological Survey of Canada. Its director William Edmond Logan had become aware through the articles on Billings and took it to the Geological Survey, who was in Montreal.
Billings has published over 200 scientific papers, and zoology. In paleontology, he published especially for the Paleozoic, and here of all known animal phyla. He also published on fossils from all over the Earth's history up to the mammoth.
He identified over 1,000 new species and 61 genera of fossils, including many trilobites and, for example, in 1872 the first documented fossil of the Precambrian Ediacaran fauna, Aspidella ( Aspidella terranovica ), found by Alexander Murray ( who thought it a mechanical relic such as the formation of gas bubbles ) in the sandstone in St. John, Newfoundland, and about 570 million years old.
In 1858 he became a member of the Geological Society of London. He received medals at the World Exhibition in London in 1862 and in Paris in 1867 and an award from the Natural History Society of Montreal.
- Sections for paleontology in the Report of the Geological Survey of Canada, 1863, edited by William Edmond Logan ( Geology of Canada)
- Palaeozoic Fossils, Volume 1 ( Containing descriptions and figures of new or little known species of organic remains from the Silurian rocks, 1861-1865). Dawson Brothers, Montreal. Geological Survey of Canada, Separate Report, 1865, Volume 2, 1874
- Catalogues of the Silurian fossils of the Iceland of Anticosti, with descriptions of some new genera and species, Geological Survey of Canada, Montreal, London, New York, and Paris, 1866
- His complete list of publications is in D. B. Dowling General index to the reports of progress, 1863 to 1884, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, 1900