Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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PETER, Robert, chemist, born in Launeeston, England, 21 January, 1805. He received his earliest education principally in England, and subsequently by self-instruction. About 1821 he came to the United States and settled in Pittsburg, where he learned the drug business. While so engaged he devoted much attention to botany, and to the conchology of the rivers, especially to the unios, also founding a botanical society, and becoming associated in the organization of the Philosophical society and the Philological institute of Pittsburg. At [he invitation of Amos Eaton, he studied for a session at Rensselaer polytechnic institute, Troy, New York, in 1828, where he received the title of lecturer on natural and demonstrative science. In 1830-'1 he was called to deliver experimental lectures on chemistry at the Western university of Pennsylvania, and also at the Mechanics' institute in Pittsburg. In 1832 he delivered a course of chemical lectures at the Eclectic institute of Lexington, Kentucky, and was engaged to assist in the chemical instruction of the medical department of Transylvania university, also becoming professor of chemistry in Morrison college of that university. He then entered the medical department, was graduated in 1834, and in 1838 was appointed professor of chemistry and pharmacy in that institution. In 1839 he visited Europe in order to secure books, anatomical preparations, and apparatus for the university, and at the same time he attended lectures in Paris and London. He was associated in founding the Kentucky school of medicine at Louisville in 1850, but three years later returned to the Medical school of Lexington. During the greater part of the civil war he was employed as acting assistant surgeon in charge of the United States general hospitals in Lexington. In 1865 he was appointed professor of chemistry and experimental natural philosophy in Kentucky university, which in 1866 acquired the Agricultural and mechanical college of Kentucky, in which he remained until 1887, when he was made emeritus. Dr. Peter was chemist to the Kentucky geological survey in 1854-'60, and in 1859-'60 conducted the chemical department of the geological surveys of Indiana and Arkansas. This work was interrupted by the civil war, but resumed in 1875, and since that year he has again filled the post of chemist to the Kentucky geological survey. In this capacity he has accomplished numerous analyses of soils, ores, waters, and other materials which have been published in the reports of the surveys. He edited the "Transylvania Medical Journal" in 1837-'8, and besides many articles on chemistry, geology, and medicine, in periodicals and the transactions of societies of which he is a member, he prepared the "Geological Formations of Kentucky" for Collins's "History of Kentucky." His most recent publications are "A Digest of the Report of the Geological Survey of Arkansas" and a "Digest, of the Reports of the First Geological Survey of Kentucky," prepared under the auspices of the United States geological survey.
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