Charles W. Peach, palaeobotany and Scotland - NMS Research Repository
Skip to main content
Shared Research Repository
Journal article

Charles W. Peach, palaeobotany and Scotland



The move south from Wick to the city of Edinburgh in 1865, some four years after retirement from the Customs service, provided Charles W. Peach with new opportunities for fossil-collecting and scientific networking. Here he renewed and maintained his interest in natural history and made significant palaeobotanical collections from the Carboniferous of the Midland Valley of Scotland. These are distinguished by some interesting characteristics of their documentation which the following generations of fossil collectors and researchers would have done well to emulate. Many of his fossil plant specimens have not only the locality detail,but also the date, month and year of collection neatly handwritten on attached paper labels; as a result, we can follow Peach's collecting activities over a period of some 18 years or so. Comments and even illustrative sketches on the labels of some fossils give us first-hand insight into Peach's observations. Study of these collections now held in National Museums Scotland reveals a pattern of collecting heavily biased towards those localities readily accessible from the newly expanding railways which provided a relatively inexpensive and convenient means of exploring the geology of the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. Charles W. Peach had a very 'hands-on' practical approach to scientific investigation which led him to construct novel glass plates with mounted Sphenopteris cuticle, removed intact from Lower Carboniferous shales and limestones originating in West Lothian. These resemble the herbarium sheets with which he was familiar from his parallel and highly significant work on extant flora including nearshore marine algae. He also prepared hand ground glass microscope slides,particularly of permineralised plant material from Pettycur in Fife, using whatever materials he had to hand at the time. Peach's collection raises questions about the evolution of accepted standards of documentation in private collections, in parallel with the evolution of collecting practices by the new professionals such as the workers of the Geological Survey. Its relatively rapid deposition in museums,compared to many private collections, may also have contributed to its apparently high rate of usage by contemporary workers.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
8 Jan 2019
4.16 MB