Piper, Charles V. (Charles Vancouver), 1867-1926Alternative names
British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000342.0x00037a
From the description of Papers, 1888-1926. (Washington State University). WorldCat record id: 29852938
Charles V. Piper was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1867. He grew up in Seattle, and attended the Territorial University of Washington until about 1892, although he had received his bachelor’s degree in 1885 at the age of 18.
Piper’s career as a botanist had two almost distinct, although overlapping, phases, first as a regional taxonomist in the Northwest and later as an agronomist with the United States Department of Agriculture at Washington, D.C. His activity as a student of Northwest flora began in the mid-1880s, associated with his mountaineering hobby and supported by the Young Naturalists, a Seattle scientific society. Piper joined the staff of the newly opened Washington Agricultural College and School of Science, now Washington State University, in late 1892, and spent the next decade at Pullman, except for one year while a fellow at the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University. At Pullman, he and his collaborator, R. Kent Beattie, composed the first reasonably complete and authoritative regional Flora, beginning with a survey of the Palouse area of Southeastern Washington and expanding into the 1906 Flora of Washington . The investigations Piper conducted at Pullman also served as the basis for two later publications, Flora of Southeast Washington and Adjacent Idaho (1941) and Flora of the Northwest Coast (1915).
Piper’s career as a USDA researcher began in 1903 and continued to his death in 1926. His primary work consisted of the location, domestication or development and introduction of grasses. His most notable success during these years involved his discovery of Sudan grass, a plant he found in Africa and introduced to North America as a forage plant.
As a plant scientist Piper often attempted to take positions which placed him simultaneously in several of the various schools of thought which characterized the bitterly divided field of botany of his day. Throughout his career he consistently emphasized attention to economic and agricultural plants, much to the criticism of the purists of the profession. He also attempted to combine various positions in the nomenclature dispute: while arguing for the necessity of historical research to establish the validity of original names, his Flora adhered to the names proposed by the International Rule school. He himself undertook a great deal of the historical research inspired by the American Rule school. He was greatly involved in the re-discovery of Meriwether Lewis’ lost herbarium and encouraged the publications of journals of earlier plant explorers of the Northwest, such as Archibald Menzies and David Douglas. On one occasion, Piper even traveled to England to make a copy of Douglas’ journal, which was not then available in the United States. Piper also took a mixed position of matters of "splitting" and "lumping." While criticized as a "splitter" and "too anxious for new species," he expressed opinions which tended to encourage "lumping."
Poor health began to restrict Piper’s activities in his early 50s and he died at Washington, D. C. in 1926.
From the guide to the Charles Vancouver Piper Papers, 1888-1926, (Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections)
- Washington (State)
- Botanists--United States--Correspondence
- Scotland, Kingdom of, United Kingdom (as recorded)
- Gloucestershire, England (as recorded)
- Utrecht, the Netherlands (as recorded)
- United States (as recorded)