Jonathan Pearson (1813-1887) was a notable Union College graduate, instructor and administrator. He received his early education in New Hampshire. He graduated first in his class in 1835 and returned to the school in the fall of 1836 as a tutor. In 1839 he became a professor of chemistry and natural history, and later taught botany and agriculture. He served as the college's librarian for more than 40 years and was also the school treasurer from 1854 to 1883. Along with his career at Union and maintaining his diary, Pearson produced five works on local history, most notably “The History of the Schenectady Patent.”
This collection includes 16 diaries with enclosures written between 1828 and 1875 totaling 2,500 pages in length. They start with the scribblings of a young man, detailing his experiences and travels, and continue through his college years and his employment at the College. The diary holds accounts of Pearson’s travels in New England and through parts of the United States, and documents his time as a member of the College administration. Interestingly, the diary becomes critical of the longtime president of Union College, Eliphalet Nott, and Pearson discusses what he exposes as incompetence in the administration as it waxes and wanes. In addition, Pearson, a devout Baptist, reflects on many aspects of the society of his day, such as slavery, as he records his impressions of historical events. Pearson himself suffers illness, engages in many travels, and lives as a father through the travails of family life.