Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7062
Meek, F. B. (Fielding Bradford), 1817-1876.
Fielding B. Meek Papers, 1843-1877 and undated
Fielding B. Meek (1817-1876) was born December 10, 1817, in Madison, Indiana, of Irish Presbyterian ancestry. His father was an eminent local lawyer who died when Meek was only three years old. Meek's early education in Indiana, and later Kentucky, was constantly interrupted due to ill health. Health problems, including deafness and tuberculosis, continued to plague him throughout his life. Meek attended good public schools, but was largely self-educated in the natural sciences. His first practical scientific experience was gained as an assistant in David Dale Owen's U.S. Geological Survey of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in 1848 and 1849. During 1852-1858 (excepting three summers) Meek was employed at Albany, New York, by the paleontologist James Hall. The summer of 1853 was spent in the Bad Lands of Nebraska in association with Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, while those of 1854 and 1855 were spent with George Clinton Swallow's Geological Survey of Missouri. Meek's association with Hall was terminated in 1858 when a dispute arose over the discovery of the occurrence of Permian fossils in North America.
Meek joined the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in 1858 as the Institution's first full-time paleontologist. In lieu of salary, Joseph Henry allotted Meek living quarters in the Smithsonian Castle Building. Until his death, Meek continued to live in the Castle, eventually gaining the title of resident collaborator in paleontology. At the Smithsonian Meek also renewed his acquaintance with F. V. Hayden, joining him on many of Hayden's surveys of the western territories. Meek and Hayden's most notable resulting publication was Paleontology of the Upper Missouri (1865). Meek also worked for the Ohio Geological Survey under John Strong Newberry, and with Amos Henry Worthen on the Geological Survey of Illinois. Although Meek was responsible for most of the invertebrate fossil work for the Illinois Survey, the reports were published jointly under the names of Worthen and Meek. Meek's bibliography contains 106 titles, including those publications written in conjunction with Hayden, Worthen, and others. His most important publication was his "Report on the Invertebrate Cretaceous and Tertiary Fossils of the Upper Missouri Country" (1876). Fielding B. Meek died of tuberculosis in his quarters at the Smithsonian on December 21, 1876.
The collection consists of correspondence 1849-1876, mostly incoming, concerning specimens and geological observations; notebooks, 1846-1872 and diaries, 1871-1875, resulting from Meek's field work; manuscripts and original plate illustrations; and miscellaneous personal papers, including a catalogue of the Meek library made soon after his death.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7062, Fielding B. Meek Papers