Charles Pickering (naturalist)

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Charles Pickering
portrait of Charles Pickering
Born (1805-11-10)November 10, 1805
Susquehanna Depot, Pennsylvania
Died March 17, 1878(1878-03-17) (aged 72)
Boston, Massachusetts
Resting place Mount Auburn Cemetery
42°22′19″N 71°08′25″W / 42.3720400572368°N 71.1403224970515°W / 42.3720400572368; -71.1403224970515Coordinates: 42°22′19″N 71°08′25″W / 42.3720400572368°N 71.1403224970515°W / 42.3720400572368; -71.1403224970515
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Education Harvard College, Harvard University, Harvard Medical School
Scientific career
Fields anthropology, botany, medicine

Charles Pickering (November 10, 1805 – March 17, 1878) was an American anthropologist and botanist.[1]


Born on Starucca Creek, Upper Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, the grandson of Colonel Timothy Pickering, he grew up in Wenham, Massachusetts and received a medical degree from Harvard University in 1826.[1] A practicing physician in Philadelphia, he became active as librarian and curator at the city's Academy of Natural Sciences.

Pickering went with the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842 as one of its naturalists. Charles Wilkes, the expedition's commander, named Pickering Passage in honor of Charles Pickering.[2]

From 1842-43, Pickering curated the collection from the Wilkes Expedition, which was housed at the Patent Office in Washington DC.[3]

Pickering was a polygenist, he believed that different races had been created separately. In 1843, he traveled to Africa and India to research human races. In 1848, Pickering published Races of Man and Their Geographical Distribution, which enumerated eleven races.

He later moved to Boston, where he resumed his medical practice, and eventually died on March 17, 1878.[4]

A subspecies of North American garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis pickeringii, is named in his honor.[5]


  • Pickering, Charles (1863). The geographical distribution of animals and plants (United States exploring expedition, 1838-1842, under the command of Charles Wilkes). Trübner and Company. 
  • Races of Man and Their Geographical Distribution (1848)
  • Geographical Distribution of Animals and Plants (1854)
  • Geographical Distribution of Plants (1861)
  • Chronological History of Plants: Man's Record of His Own Existence Illustrated through Their Names, Uses, and Companionship (1879)

See also


  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Kelly, Howard A.; Burrage, Walter L., eds. (1920). "Pickering, Charles". American Medical Biographies. Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company. 
  2. ^ Phillips, James W. (1971). Washington State Place Names. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95158-3. 
  3. ^ Philbrick, Nathaniel. "The Scientific Legacy of the U.S. Exploring Expedition."}[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society. 
  5. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Pickering", p. 207).
  6. ^ IPNI.  Pickering. 

External links

  • Works on
  • Bio at Harvard University
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