Lesley, J. P. (J. Peter), 1819-1903

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Epithet: Secretary of the American Philosophical Society

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000270.0x00032a

J. Peter Lesley was a geologist and director of the second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania (1874-1896). He was also librarian (1858-1885), secretary (1859-1887), and vice president (1887-1898) of the American Philosophical Society.

From the description of Correspondence, 1834-1887, with Joseph Lesley. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 173465817

From the description of Papers, 1826-1898. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 154298053

When J. Peter Lesley (1819-1903) graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1838, he intended for the Presbyterian ministry, but when ill health intervened, he was set off on a path that would make him one of the most influential geologists in 19th century Pennsylvania. In order to help rebuild his strength and restore his health, Lesley accepted an appointment with the first Pennsylvania Geological Survey under the direction of Henry Darwin Rogers and engaged in structural and stratigraphic work and topographical and geological mapping in the Pennsylvania anthracite belt. By 1841, he had recovered sufficiently to return to his divinity studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, but continued all the while to work for the Survey on a part time basis, mostly in preparing maps.

After a trip to Europe in 1844 to polish off his ministerial education, Lesley accepted a pulpit in rural central Pennsylvania, and moved three years later to take the helm of a Congregational church in Milton, Massachusetts. There he came into contact with a politically progressive, intellectually stimulating crowd that included Lydia Maria Child, James Freeman Clarke, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and the fringes of the Transcendentalists and reformers. A young Unitarian member of this circle, Susan Inches Lyman, became Lesley's wife in February, 1849, and both shared their associates' progressive political and social vision.

As he had all along, Lesley continued to work on an occasional basis for the Geological Survey until 1852, when a long-standing conflict with Rogers over credit for field assistants led him to resign. That year marked an even more profound change in Lesley's life, as he also decided to leave the church and return home to Pennsylvania. Coinciding with the period of extraordinary expansion in the coal and rail industries in Pennsylvania, Lesley devoted himself fully to geological work. Employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and other corporations, Lesley was an important cartographer - one of the first to employ contour lines to represent topography - and was an important writer and synthesizer of knowledge about the coal and iron regions. He is credited with some of the first systematic studies of coal, oil, and gas resources in the state.

Lesley's rising prestige in scientific circles led to his election to the American Philosophical Society in 1856, where he instilled himself in the Society's leadership, serving as librarian (1858-1885), secretary (1859-1887), and vice president (1887-1898). During his tenure as librarian, he introduced a new system of arranging books by subject, anticipating in some ways Melvil Dewey's system, but employing small spine labels arranged in the colors of the spectrum to represent the areas of knowledge. He was, as well, a charter member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1863.

Lured to the University of Pennsylvania as Professor of Mining in 1859, Lesley became a fixture there, too. Lesley's acquisition of a major collection of fossils, rocks, and minerals from James Hall, state geologist of New York, helped consolidate geology as a major subject of study at Penn. Lesley later became Professor of Geology and Mining Engineering and Dean of the Science Faculty, and in 1875, he was appointed Dean of the newly formed Towne Scientific School.

The continuing importance of the oil industry to Pennsylvania's economy led to calls for a second state Geological Survey, and for the duration of its existence, from 1874 to 1889, Lesley served as Director. An immense operation by the standards of the first Survey, at least, the second Survey was also immensely productive, issuing dozens of publications on the topography, geology, paleontology, and mineral resources of the state. He was in the midst of preparing a state-mandated final report for the Survey in 1893 when he suffered a complete breakdown. He never recovered.

Lesley died in 1903. One of his two daughters, Mary, married the prominent Minneapolis businessman, Charles W. Ames (1855-1921), and the other, Margaret Lesley Bush-Brown (1857-1944), became a well known artist, some of whose portraits hang in the APS.

From the guide to the J.P. Lesley Papers, 1826-1898, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
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referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. Ru 33: Office Of The Secretary, Outgoing Corres..
referencedIn Royal Society (Great Britain) letters and communications from Americans, 1662-1900, 1662-1900 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Peale-Sellers families. Correspondence, 1686-1963. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn William Parker Foulke Papers, 1840-1865, 1840-1865 American Philosophical Society
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referencedIn John L. (John Lawrence) LeConte papers, 1812-1897, 1812-1897 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. Ru 26: Office Of The Secretary, Incoming Corres..
referencedIn Charles Sumner correspondence, 1829-1874. Houghton Library.
creatorOf J.P. Lesley Papers, 1826-1898 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Ira Moore papers, 1848-1856, 1848-1856 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. James Henry Coffin Papers. Smithsonian Institution Archives
creatorOf Lesley, J. P. (J. Peter), 1819-1903. Papers, 1826-1898. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn National Academy Of Sciences, Archives. Nas Bound Material.
creatorOf Records of the U.S. Geological Survey. 1839 - 2008. Personal Letters Received
referencedIn American Philosophical Society. Miscellaneous Manuscript Collections.
creatorOf Lesley, J. P. (J. Peter), 1819-1903. Pennsylvania Iron Furnace and geological reports, 1864-1872. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Lesley, J. P. (J. Peter), 1819-1903. Correspondence, 1834-1887, with Joseph Lesley. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Huntington Library. William Jones Rhees Collection.
referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscript Maps, 1747-1948 American Philosophical Society
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referencedIn American Philosophical Society. Aps Archives.
referencedIn Vol. XXII (ff. 432). 1848-1878.includes:f. 1 Lewis Weston Dillwyn, MP; of Sketty Hall, county Glamorgan: Letter to A. R. Wallace: 1848. f. 2 James Motley, traveller in the E Indies: Letter to A. R. Wallace: 1858. f. 3 Thomas George Baring, 2nd Baro..., 1848-1878 British Library
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referencedIn Wright, Chauncey, 1830-1875. Papers, [ca. 1850s-1870s]. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Ames, Life & Letters Of Lesley. [Contact repository for more information].
referencedIn John Wesley Powell correspondence, 1869-1879, of the Powell Survey, 1869-1879 American Philosophical Society
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referencedIn New Jersey Historical Society. Kinney Family Papers (Mg 785), W. B. Kinney Papers.
referencedIn American Philosophical Society. [Contact repository for more information].
referencedIn Harvard, Houghton Library. Louis Agassiz Papers.
referencedIn Library Of Congress, Manuscript Division. Horace Capron Papers.
referencedIn National Academy Of Sciences, Archives. Rg 192: Commissary General Of Subsistence.
referencedIn American Philosophical Society. John Peter Lesley Papers.
referencedIn Library Of Congress, Manuscript Division. Abraham Lincoln Papers.
creatorOf Furness, William Henry, 1802-1896. W.H. Furness letters to Dr. Robert Montgomery Smith Jackson, 1856-1887. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIe, 1845-1865 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Ralph Waldo Emerson letters from various correspondents, ca. 1814-1882. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Leo Lesquereux Autobiography, 1864-1886 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Warner, John, d. 1873. Letters and papers, 1850-1864. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn John Warner letters and papers, 1850-1864, 1850-1864 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIg, 1887-1891 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Lesley, J. P. (J. Peter), 1819-1903. Letter, 1881. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Chauncey Wright Papers, 1850-1875 American Philosophical Society
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referencedIn Moore, Ira. Papers, 1848-1856. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Louis Agassiz correspondence and other papers, 1821-1877. Houghton Library.
referencedIn John Fries Frazer papers, 1834-1871, 1834-1871 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Fontaine, William Morris, 1835-1913. Letters to William Morris Fontaine, 1874-1878. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Papers of James Geikie and his family, 1872-1917 Edinburgh University Library
referencedIn Royal Institution (Great Britain). John Tyndall Papers.
referencedIn Du Pont de Nemours family. Papers relating to the American Philosophical Society, 1800-1894, 1800-1894 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn J.P. Lesley Papers, 1826-1898 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Peale-Sellers Family Collection, 1686-1963, 1686-1963 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIf, 1866-1886 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Harvard, Houghton Library. Benjamin Peirce Papers.
referencedIn Forbes Library. Benjamin Smith Lyman Papers.
referencedIn Royal Society. Sabine Papers.
referencedIn Foulke, William Parker, 1816-1865. Papers, ca. 1840-1865. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Francois André Michaux papers, 1802-1911, 1802-1911 American Philosophical Society
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Geology--Pennsylvania
Obelisks
Charities
Civil war
Surveys And Explorations, General
Transcendentalism
Inventors
Philadelphia
Albany, New York
Switzerland--Description and travel
Exposition
Geological Survey of Pennsylvania
Scientific organizations
Optics
Lectures, Popular
Slavery--United States
International travel
Avesta
Applications for positions
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Slavery
Philology
Dudley Observatory
Germany--Description and travel
Funeral rites and ceremonies
Applied Science, General
Blacks
Congress
Ethnology Archaeology Anthropology
Mechanics
Recommendations For Positions
National Museum
Fine Arts
Cartography
Education--United States
Americans On Europe
Chemistry
American Philosophical Society
Smithsonian Endowment
Architecture
Charities--United States
Evolution
Smithsonian Publications
Navies
Social conditions, social advocacy, social reform
Royal Institution
Unitarianism
Americans Abroad
Marriage and Family Life
Agriculture
Meteorology
Religion
Paleontology
Smithsonian Library
Geology--Nova Scotia--Surveys
Geology Maps
National Academy of Sciences
Smithsonian Institution
University of Pennsylvania
Patent Office
District of columbia
Nova Scotia--Surveys
France--Description and travel
Coasts--Surveys
Exchanges Of Publications
Standardization
Academy Of Natural Sciences In Philadelphia
Geology
Treasury Department
Geology--Survey
Paleontology--Pennsylvania
Science In Europe
Energy
Henry, Joseph, Personality, Etc
Smithsonian Building
American Assoc. For The Advancement Of Science (+ Aagn Etc.)
Literature, Arts, and Culture
Hawaiian language
Natural history
Royal Society
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1819-09-17

Death 1903-06-01

Male

Americans

English

Information

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