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This biography is from Landmarks of Albany County, New York, edited by Amasa J. Parker of Albany, N. Y., Syracuse, N. Y.; D. Mason & Co. Publishers, 1897.

Charles H. Peck, A. M.

Charles H. Peck, the son of Joel B. and Pamelia Horton Peck, was born in Sand Lake, Rensselaer county, N. Y., in 1833. He is the oldest of a family of nine children, six of whom are now living. During his early years his father was engaged in the manufacture of lumber. Accordingly in his youth he was in close association and familiarity with the trees of the forests that surrounded his home. When he was five years old he commenced his educational course by attending the district school. This was at that time kept in a log school house whose furnishings were of the most primitive character. As soon as he was old enough to be of assistance in the saw mill, his school days were limited to the winter season, his help being required in the mill during the summer.

When eighteen years old he entered the State Normal School at Albany, from which he graduated at the end of the year. While here he joined a voluntary class in botany, taking this study as an extra, since it was not at that time included in the regular course of study These few lessons awakened in him a love for botanical pursuits that never afterwards left him. By such trifling and apparently almost accidental circumstances the whole future course of life is sometimes changed. This love of botanical science afterwards proved to be the controlling power in his life work.

The winter succeeding his graduation found him in charge of a large district school in the town of Poestenkill, Rensselaer county. The next summer he accepted a clerkship in a general country store, but long hours of labor and close confinement soon impaired the health of a constitution never very robust, to such a degree that he was obliged to change his occupation. This he did without much reluctance, determining to take a course of study in college that he might be better prepared for some more agreeable field of labor. Having pursued the necessary preparatory studies in the Sand Lake Collegiate Institute, he entered Union College in 1855.

He took the regular classical course, and was one of three members of his class to whom was awarded what was then known as a Nott Prize Scholarship. This was an honor granted to those only who sustained a special rigid examination in the preparatory studies, and it was continued only as long as its recipients maintained a certain high standard of excellence in their studies and deportment. During his college course his botanical inclinations supplied much of his recreation. Instead of playing foot ball with his fellows on the college campus, he sought communion with his plant friends in the fields and woods. In these rambles many treasures were gathered to enrich his small but gradually increasing herbarium. In this study he received instruction from the late Professor Pierson, not only in the class room but also sometimes in the field, for it was the custom of the professor to be a leader and a companion of his scholars in their excursions after material for study. He graduated in 1859 and three years after received the degree of A. M. from his Alma Mater.

Scarcely had he finished his college course when he was offered a position as teacher of classics, mathematics and botany in Sand Lake Collegiate Institute, where four years before he had been a student. This position was accepted and proved so satisfactory that an opportunity, which was offered some time afterward, to teach in a more prominent position of learning, was declined.

About seven years were spent in teaching here and in Albany. While in the latter place he formed the acquaintance of the Hon. George W. Clinton, a member of the Board of Regents of the University. Judge Clinton was a good botanist himself, and interested in the improvement and extension of the State Herbarium, a part of the State Museum of Natural History. Through his instrumentality, Mr. Peck was employed to do this work and to add to the Herbarium specimens of the cryptogamic flora of the State, but few of which plants were then represented in it. Upon the passage of the law recognizing the geologist and paleontologist, the botanist and the entomologist, as constituting the scientific staff of the State Museum, he was appointed as botanist of the staff, which position he now holds. By his labors the number of plant species represented in the Herbarium has been trebled, and it is now one of the most complete and extensive local collections in the country. His duties have required him to devote much time to the investigation of the fungi which constitute by far the most extensive and intricate branch of the cryptygamic flora. Of these plants he has described many new species and added vastly to the scientific value of the Herbarium by placing in it the type specimens of these new species. His investigations of the fleshy fungi, especially, have been so thorough and extensive, that he has become a recognized authority in this department of botany. By experimental trials of their edibility he has added many species to the list of useful and edible mushrooms. There are few mycologists in this country who have not been at some time or who are not now his corespondents. Many of them have received more or less assistance from him in acquiring a knowlege of these plants. At the present time he is in almost daily receipt of specimens of fungi from various parts of the country. These are sent for identification or as data for the solution of some problem in regard to their character, quality or edibility.

His literary productions are not extensive, consisting chiefly of several papers on botanical topics read before the Albany Institute, contributions from time to time to the Country Gentleman, replies to botanical queries therein and his annual reports made to the Board of Regents and published in the Museum Reports. These now exceed twenty-five in number, but some of the earlier ones are out of print. They are eagerly sought by botanists and especially by mycologists. The application for copies of the one containing the report on the edible and poisonous mushrooms of the State were unprecedented in number, scores of them being received even before the issuing of the report. They came from variousparts of the country and indicated a wide spread interest in the subject and an evident desire for information in this practical branch of botany.

In 1861 he married Miss Mary C. Sliter of Sand Lake. He has two sons, Harry S. and Charles A. Peck, both of whom are now engaged in mercantile pursuits. He is fond of his home and takes much pleasure and recreation in his garden at Menands. By experiments in it, he derives from it aid in solving or in verifying many problems in plant life and plant diseases. He is naturally modest and retiring in his disposition, shrinking from the excitements of public life, averse to extravagant pretensions and ostentatious display, contented to labor on quietly and faithfully in his chosen field and to add what he can to the sum of human knowledge and human happiness. He is an active member of several scientific societies, an elder in the Presbyterian church, a Republican in politics, but has never held nor earnestly sought an elective civil office. He is decided in his own political and religious opinions but tolerant of others who hold different views.

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