Nathan Peck Sr., Professor Emeritus of Plant and Soil Science, Dies at 94

Peck Sr.

Nathan Hiram Peck Sr. ’51, Ph.D. ’56, professor emeritus of plant and soil science, died Aug. 24 at the Geneva Living Center North in Geneva, New York. He was 94.

Peck joined Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva in 1959. He conducted research on soil productivity, seedling establishment, responses to fertilizer and fungicides, and the effects of solar radiation and evapo-transpiration in agricultural fields. He also led the climate station at Geneva.

At Cornell, Peck provided New York’s vegetable growers with the best plant nutrition information available. He wrote more than 100 publications addressing soil fertility and plant nutrition to improve yields and quality. In 1989, Peck was honored with a tribute from the New York State Vegetable Growers Association for his scientific contributions.

While an active professor and researcher, he enjoyed the hands-on aspect of working in the fields and drove a farm tractor on his agricultural plots to set up his research. It gave him time to think, said his family.

Prior to working at Cornell, he worked as a soil scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and as an agronomist for Birds Eye.

Nathan Peck Sr. in a Geneva bean field. Photo provided.

Peck was born Feb. 21, 1923, on a fourth-generation family farm – in the family since 1825 – in Phelps, New York, where Peck’s family noted his pride in creating an ornamental flower and vegetable garden. His abundant irises and roses grew lush.

Peck served in the Army during World War II, listening to enemy Morse code. After leaving the Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell in plant physiology in 1951 and earned his doctorate from Cornell in 1956 in soil physics – edaphology.

Peck is survived by his widow, Florence B. (Conover) Peck ’50; his children Nathan H. Peck Jr. ’76, MBA ’78; Nancy E. Peck ’77; Henry R. Peck ’79; Walter G. Peck ’81, MBA ’84; Virginia A. Peck ’89; and Alice P. Hoover ’90; 12 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at the United Church of Phelps, 58 Main St., Phelps, New York, Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. Memorial donations can be made to the Oaks Corners Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 54, Oaks Corners, NY 14518.


This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.