Smithsonian Scientists at Work

A look back at Smithsonian scientists through history.

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Joseph P. E. Morrison, Associate Curator of the US National Museum’s Division of Mollusks, working aboard a ship at Bikini Atoll, 1947. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number SIA2010-0975.

Paleobiologist G. Arthur Cooper conducting filed work at Glass Mountains, Texas, 1957. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 85-16954.

Retired Smithsonian scientist still engaged in research in the field, prospecting with metal detectors in Henbury, Australia for meteorites, 1965. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 85-7038.

F. Raymond Fosberg, a botanist known for his work in conservation, examining a native tree in Sri Lanka, 1978. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2013-03927.

Entomologist J.F. Gates Clark on a hillside in British Columbia, Canada, collecting insects, 1980s. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 91-15684.

Smithsonian Secretary and ornithologist Alexander Wetmore and taxidermist Watson M. Perrygo preparing specimens in Panama, 1949. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2010-0497.

A. Stanley Rand, a herpetologist and Senior Biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, capturing the sound of frogs in Panama, 1996. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2011-0032.

Anson Hines of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, holding a crab with a telemeter tracker attached to its shell, 1986. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2011-1166.

Diane and Mark Littler in snorkeling gear doing algae research at the Smithsonian Marine Station at Link Point, 1984. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 84-17999-8A.

Three scientists, including Linda McCann (left) of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, sampling water in Baltimore Harbor, 1994. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2011-1200.

Scientific research has been integral to the Smithsonian, from its founding to today. The Smithsonian's founder, Englishman James Smithson, saw in the U.S. (according to his biographer, Heather Ewing) "a place of the future" that could support "science and progress for humanity." He believed that scientists were "citizens of the world" and that the work they did benefited everyone. He was a chemist and studied almost everything he encountered. Furthermore, the leaders of the Smithsonian, or secretaries, often had science backgrounds; physics, ornithology, paleontology, and archaelogy to name a few.

Today, Smithsonian scientists work around the world, in laboratories, observatories, and the field, studying topics that range from astrophysics to conservation biology to coastal ecosystems to tropical ecologiesAs people gather in Washington D.C. for both the March for Science and the Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit, we look back at some of our scientists who have made science history at the Smithsonian and in the world.

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Frederick W. True, mammologist at the US National Museum, working with specimens, circa 1880s. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2002-32245.

Walter Hough, anthropologist and ethnologist, holding coin in hand and looking at it through a magnifying glass. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number SIA2008-3997.

Charles Whitney Gilmore, curator of the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, with the vertebrae of a Diplodocus. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number SIA2008-1929.

Dr. Johnston, with plant physiology equipment. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number SIA2008-4442.

Doris Mable Cochran, a herpetologist in the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians, circa 1930s. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 96-957.

Mary Mann and Donald Davis with a scanning electron microscope in the National Museum of Natural History entomology collections, 1975. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2009-1230.

Marine Biologist and National Museum of Natural History Curator David Pawson working with coral specimens, 1975. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2011-0067.

Ichthyologist Robert Gibbs, National Museum of Natural History curator, examining a fish, 1975. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2013-03939.

Walter Munn, working with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory satellite tracking system, circa 1970. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2005-10439.

Storrs Olson, ornithologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, studying a bird skull, 1969. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2011-1096.

Elizabeth Gantt, a biologist at the Smithsonian's Radiation Biology Laboratory, studying algae, 1979. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 2011-1158.


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