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Charles U.  Shepard
(1804-1886)

Charles Upham Shepard, one of America's earliest mineralogists, was born in Little Compton, Rhode Island on June 29, 1804, the son of Deborah Haskins and Rev. Moses Shepard. He studied for a year at Brown University before transferring to Amherst College in 1821. Following his graduation in 1824 he spent nearly a year studying under Prof. L. Nuttall, then began giving private lessons in mineralogy and botany in Boston for a few months before joining Benjamin Silliman's staff at Yale in 1827, as his assistant, and later as a lecturer on natural history at Yale (1830-1847). He also held the position of lecturer at the Medical College of Charleston, South Carolina from 1833-1870 (except for the Civil War years). In 1845 he joined the faculty at Amherst College as a full professor of chemistry and natural history, becoming professor emeritus in 1877. Among his most important discoveries were the South Carolina phosphate deposits, which proved to be of great economic value to the State.

Sometime in the late 1850's the Georgia mineralogist Dr. M. F. Stephenson forwarded a suite of Graves Mountain specimens to Shepard for identification. These were described in an 1856 paper, and later Shepard's son, Charles Jr., became a part-owner of the Graves Mountain deposit, mining it for specimens which he distributed widely.

Shepard was an enthusiastic collector of minerals (and also of meteorites, fossils, shells, and plants). His collections were housed and exhibited on the second floor of a beautiful octagonal building on the Amherst campus. The minerals were arranged according to the system put forth in his Treatise on Mineralogy (1856). Shepard's collection was sold to Amherst College in 1877, where it was destroyed by fire in 1882 a catalog from before the fire listed more than 25,000 mineral specimens. The collection was supposed to have "outranked in magnitude and value the public collections in London, Paris and Vienna!"

Following the disastrous fire Shepard immediately set about building a second mineral collection. When he died in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1886, part of his rebuilt mineral collection was given to Amherst College by his son, Charles Upham Shepard, Jr. (born October 4,1842; died July 4, 1915). Charles Jr. also donated 170 meteorites from his father's collection (the largest such collection in the country at that time) to the Smithsonian Institution. Another group of meteorites was apparently retained by Amherst from the "original" (pre-fire?) collection of "several hundred" specimens and was finally transferred to the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University in 1978; 18 meteorites remain on display at Amherst.

Charles Jr. loaned 5,050 mineral specimens (mostly thumbnails and miniatures) from his father's collection to the Smithsonian Institution, with the stipulation that they would be donated if none of Shepard's nephews took up mineralogy; they didn't, and it was, finally, in 1929, 14 years after the death of Charles Jr. Included were type specimens of 47 of the 140 new mineral species Shepard had described between 1832 and 1882. Shepard was a prolific author on mineralogical subjects, and made numerous interesting contributions to the literature, but unfortunately he was notoriously careless and hasty in many of his descriptions of new species; of the 140 he published, only a dozen remain valid today, having since been shown to be mixtures or previously known species.

References:
Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography.
ROE, A. (1975) The C.U. Shepard mineral collection and the two Drs. Shepard. Mineralogical Record, 6. 253-257.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard Charles Upham Shepard, Sr.
The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard 22 x 29 mm,
Shepard label from Amherst College collection
The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard 24 x 30 mm,
Shepard label from Amherst College
The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard 37 x 67 mm,
Exhibit label, Amherst College
The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard 28 x 52 mm,
Shepard label from Amherst College
The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard 28 x 53 mm,
Shepard label from Amherst College
The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard 52 x 77 mm,
Preprinted label for a Grave's Mountain specimen; Shepard and his son (who became a part-owner of the deposit) distributed such specimens widely.
The Mineralogical Record - Charles U.  Shepard 51 x 77 mm,
Preprinted label for a Grave's Mountain specimen; Shepard and his son (who became a part-owner of the deposit) distributed such specimens widely.
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