Dewey, Chester

Date range: 1810-1877
Location: A.D518
Size: 3 boxes, 1 bound volume

Chester Dewey was born on a farm in Sheffield, in southwestern Massachusetts, on October 25, 1784. He attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, graduating in 1806.

He became a minister for the next several years, before returning to Williams as a tutor in 1808 and then becoming a professor in 1810. He taught a range of subjects, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, and botany.

He left Williams to become the principal of the Berkshire Gymnasium (a boys’ school) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where he served from 1827 to 1836. Beginning in the 1820s and continuing for two decades he also lectured at two western New England medical schools.

In 1836 he moved west to Rochester, New York to become head of the high school, later known as the Rochester Collegiate Institute.

In 1850, at the age of 66, Dewey was a founding faculty member of the University of Rochester. For the next eleven years, he taught chemistry and natural sciences, retiring in 1861 at the age of 76.

During his long career, he published a number of articles. One of his special interests was botany. Another was meteorology. For three decades, 1837-1867, he kept daily records of Rochester weather.

He died in Rochester on December 15, 1867 and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester.

Both the Dictionary of American Biography (v. 5, 1930) and the American National Biography (v. 6, 1999) have biographical sketches on Dewey with helpful bibliographies. He is noted as being one of the 56 most important American scientists of his time as studied in the book, American Science in the Age of Jackson (1968).

His papers contain his daily meteorological records for Rochester, 1837-1867. The correspondence section of his papers contains 95 letters, from various correspondents including William Boott, James Dwight Dana, Ebenezer Emmons, Joseph Henry, Benjamin Silliman, Joseph Torrey, and Edward Tuckerman. The letters have been indexed in the card index for letters in the Department, and each folder of correspondence in his papers has a cover sheet listing the letters in the folder.

The Department also has a collection of 227 pamphlets gathered by Chester Dewey that he had bound in 11 volumes. (Call number: AC 109.5 D51p ) They represent a broad range of topics, including education, politics, and natural history, along with many sermons. They span the period 1794 to 1848.

Among the museum pieces in the University Archives, is a walking stick owned by Chester Dewey.  It is inscribed on its head:  Dr. C. Dewey  From the Geology Class  Curtis Sem'y  1861.  (The Curtis Seminary for Girls in Rochester later became the Livingston Park Seminary, which closed in 1934.)

Contents:Box 1: Meteorological Observations, Rochester, 1837-1867. Dr. Dewey's notebooks of Meteorological Observations also contain newspaper clippings, including a weather series by Dr. Dewey and miscellaneous articles, and notes added by

  1. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1837, 1838, 1839 (3 items)
  2. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1840, 1841, (2 items)
  3. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1842, 1843. (2 items)
  4. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1844, 1845. (2 items)
  5. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1846, 1847. (2 items)
  6. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1848, 1849. (2 items)
  7. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1850, 1851. (2 items)
  8. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1852, 1853. (2 items)
  9. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1854, 1855. (1 item)
  10. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1856-1860. (1 item)
  11. Meteorological observations, Rochester, 1861-1867. (1 item)

Box 2: Meteorological Observations, 1858-1860, Correspondence, etc. Folder:
  1. Seely, J.C. and Clark, I.C., Meteorological observations taken at the University of Rochester, 1858. (11 items. Lacks November)
  2. Clark, I.C. and Filmer, T.T., Meteorological Observations taken at the University of Rochester, 1859. (10 items. Lacks February and June)
  3. Filler, T.T. and Fenner, F.D., Meteorological observations taken at the University of Rochester, 1860. (12 items)
  4. Semi-centennial at Plymouth Church, December 27, 1857 and January 10, 1858. (5 items)
  5. Correspondence (Indexed) 1817-1839.
  6. Correspondence (Indexed) 1840-1849.
  7. Correspondence (Indexed) 1850-1859.
  8. Correspondence (Indexed) 1860-1863.
  9. Correspondence (Indexed) 1864.
  10. Correspondence (Indexed) 1865.
  11. Correspondence (Indexed) 1866-1867, undated.
  12. List of Chester Dewey Letters owned by the Rochester Academy of Science (Note: These have been arranged chronologically with the letters owned by the University; see above.)
  13. "Non-letters" (Unindexed)
  14. Miscellaneous financial accounts, etc.

Box 3: Books

  1. Latin grammar, bought by Chester Dewey, December 18, 1800.
  2. Scrapbook: "Brief Illustrations," a newspaper series comprised of 146 articles appearing in The Sun from December 6, 1832-June 2, 1836. The scrapbook contains several other newspaper articles and Dewey's handwritten notes on theories of light.
  3. Index: Definitions of scientific terms, etc., belonging to Chester Dewey and Charles A. Dewey.
  4. Account book: Accounts of both Chester Dewey and Charles A. Dewey, 1855-1877.

1 unboxed, over-sized book -- Day Book: Dr. Dewey's accounts, 1810-1830, and a record of the marriages performed by him, 1854-1866.