True, Frederick William, 1858-1914

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Biographical History

Frederick William True (1858-1914) was born in Middletown, Connecticut, on July 8, 1858. His brother was Alfred Charles True, a leader in American agricultural education. True attended the University of the City of New York and received his B.S. degree in 1878. Later that year, he received a position as a clerk with the United States Fish Commission. While with the Fish Commission, he served as custodian of the agency's exhibits at the Berlin Fisheries Exposition of 1880. In 1881, he joined the Smithsonian Institution and began an association that lasted until his death in 1914. During that period, he held a number of positions in the Smithsonian and in the United States National Museum (USNM). From 1881 to 1883, he was librarian of the Smithsonian and acting curator of Mammals. He became curator of Mammals in 1883 and remained in charge of the division until 1909. In addition to those duties, he was curator of the Division of Comparative Anatomy from 1885 to 1890, executive curator from 1894 to 1897, and head of the Department of Biology from 1897 to 1911. From 1911 to 1914, True was assistant secretary of the Smithsonian in charge of the library and International Exchange Service. During this period, the Smithsonian Institution was actively engaged in displaying exhibits at the many expositions that were being held. True was responsible for the preparation of the Smithsonian exhibits for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition at Nashville, 1897; the Omaha Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898; the Pan American Exposition at Buffalo, New York, 1901; the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition at Charleston, 1902; the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 at St. Louis; and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition at Portland, Oregon. True originally began his zoological studies with the lower groups of animals, but bad eyesight forced him to revise his plans and he turned to the study of mammals. His particular speciality was cetaceans and allied groups. Later, he took up the study of fossil cetaceans, and in addition to publishing many important works in the field, helped build up the USNM's collection in this area. True died on June 25, 1914.

Related entities

  • Smithsonian Institution: He held a number of positions in the Smithsonian including librarian.
  • United States National Museum: He held a number of positions in the United States National Museum (USNM, including curator of Mammals).

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United States National Museum Executive Curator


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United States National Museum Executive Curator