Log In

Chester Dewey Edit Profile

botanist , physicist

Chester Dewey was an American botanist, antislavery activist, clergyman and educator.


Dewey, Chester was born on October 25, 1784 in Sheffield, Massachusetts, United States. Son of Stephen and Elizabeth (Owen) Dewey.


He studied for the ministry at Williams College, graduated in 1806, and officiated at Tryingham, Massachusetts.


Even though he gave up preaching as his primary profession after only a few months, he never really retired from the pulpit. For the remainder of his life he accepted frequent invitations to preach, in scores of churches in many places and did neagrly as much work of this kind as if preaching were his only occupation. Dewey was professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Williams College from 1810 to 1827.

From 1850 until 1860 he was professor of chemistry and natural philosophy in the University of Rochester. Dewey's entire life was given to scientific pursuits, and he held a high position among American naturalists. He made the study of grasses a specialty, and discovered and described several new species.

The degree of M.D. was conferred upon him by Yale in 1825, D.D. by Union in 1838 and LL.D. by Williams in 1850. His papers on some of the "Families and Natural Orders of Plants", published in the American Journal of Science, attracted the attention of some of the leading European botanists, and led to a correspondence with them. In the class of "carices" he was a recognized authority, and his writings on that subject make an elaborate monograph, upon which he labored for more than forty years.

His "History of the Herbaceous Plants of Massachusetts" was published by that state. In botany, Dewey is known chiefly as a tireless student of the largest genus of flowering plants, the intricate and highly technical genus Carex. For 43 years (1824–1867) he contributed with almost clock-like regularity to the pages of the American Journal of Science a series of papers entitled "Caricography".

Recognized by his contemporaries as one of the few outstanding authorities on a perplexing and not at all showy group, he seems at the same time to have been looked at askance by the more cautious of them. Now, many more of his specific propositions are recognized than during his lifetime. Dewey's important collections contained 97 types of species and varieties proposed by him.

He died in Rochester, New York, on December 15, 1867. Dewey bequeathed his herbarium, one of the most complete in the country, as well as his carices library, to Williams College.


  • Other Work

    • Author: Report on the Herbageous Plants and in the Quadrupeds of Massachusetts, 1840.


He was a careful and accurate observer of the weather, and his notes were published in regular monthly reports.


Married Sarah Dewey, 1810. Married second, Olivia Hart Pomeroy, 1825.

Stephen Dewey

Elizabeth (Owen) Dewey

Sarah Dewey

Olivia Hart Pomeroy