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Ornithology Exchange

Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian


Chris Merkord
  • Rivinus, E.F.; Youssef, E.M. Smithsonian Institution Press 1992 Washington, D.C. United States

    228 pages

    English , Nearctic, 11/17/1992 1560981555 9781560981558 No value No value

In the course of a fascinating life at the center of nineteenth-century science, Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887) was the second secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the first U.S. commissioner of fish and fisheries (and, in that role, the initiator of what grew into the now-world-famous Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts), supervisor of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and the first director of the United States National Museum, which he personally persuaded Congress to create. Recounting the life and achievements of a great naturalist, educator, and builder of institutions, this biography reveals that Baird, though rarely a leader of expeditions himself, actively charted much of the direction and content of nineteenth-century science and museums. Rivinus and Youssef explore Baird's character and motivations, placing the details of his professional and personal life against the larger scale of politics, science, and culture and the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. They detail Baird's relationships with Audubon, Joseph Henry, and Louis Agassiz; his development of a scientific method now known as the "Bairdian School"; his skill at placing young naturalists on all of the major government-sponsored exploring expeditions into the western territories; his prodigious correspondence; and his considerable skill at influencing the leading politicians of his day (Baird's testimony proved crucial to the U.S. purchase of Alaska).




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