Ivan Dawson Hepburn, missionary and naturalist, was the son of John Stewart Hepburn and his wife Elizabeth Maria Christina Hepburn. He passed the matriculation examination of the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1913 and continued his studies at Rhodes University College, Grahamstown, where he completed the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1916 with botany as one of his major subjects. He collected plants and insects in the Herschel district, Eastern Cape, where his father had a trading store, and published "Ecological notes on the mountainous portions of the Herschel District" in the South African Journal of Natural History (1919, Vol. 1(2), pp. 210-223). His plant specimens went to the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, but the mosses to the National Herbarium in Pretoria. He became a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science in 1918.
Meanwhile Hepburn was ordained as a Methodist minister and by 1918 had joined the Sudan United Mission in Northern Nigeria. He established two new mission stations there, at Wana and Keyana. He is also believed to have compiled a dictionary of the Eggon language, spoken in parts of Nigeria, and translated the New Testament into Eggon. The plant specimens he collected in Nigeria went to the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England, and to the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris. During 1931-1936 he furthermore presented rock samples from Nigeria to the British Museum (Natural History).
Hepburn was not married.