Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9529
Henderson, Edward P. interviewee
Oral history interviews with Edward P. Henderson, 1984-1985
Edward Porter Henderson (1898-1992), was born in Columbus, Ohio. After serving in the United States Marine Corps during World War I, he received the B. S. and M. S. in Chemistry from the George Washington University. In 1920, he was appointed Assistant Chemist at the United States Geological Survey (USGS). In 1929, he transferred to the Smithsonian Institution (SI), as Assistant Curator of Physical and Chemical Geology in the Department of Geology of the United States National Museum (USNM), where he spent the rest of his career. In his early years at the USNM, he specialized in the analysis of ores and minerals, and made frequent field trips within the United States to collect ores and minerals for the USNM. He also assumed responsibility for the small collection of meteorites that had been amassed by his predecessor, George P. Merrill. In 1942, Henderson advanced to Associate Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology, and in 1964 to Curator of the Division of Meteorites.
In 1947, Henderson traveled to Japan with his fellow USNM Curator, William F. Foshag, at the request of General Douglas MacArthur. During their five month stay, they sorted and appraised Japanese gemstones recovered in Tokyo by the United States Army. The end of World War II also saw an increase in interest in meteorites, as the era of space exploration opened; thus Henderson's efforts became entirely focused on the collection and analysis of meteorites. He worked with amateur collectors, such as newsman Stuart H. Perry, in developing the national meteorite collection, and travelled to Europe, Russia, Asia and Australia in search of new specimens. Henderson was noted for his work on composition, classification and methods of analysis of meteorites. Henderson also supervised the exhibits modernization of the Mineral Hall, which reopened in 1957. He oversaw the renovation of chemical laboratory in the 1950s and was instrumental in acquiring an electron microprobe in 1963. After his retirement from the curatorship in 1965, he continued his work as honorary research associate until 1989. In 1970 he was awarded the Lawrence Smith Medal of the National Academy of Sciences for his contributions to the field of meteoritics.
The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted by researchers or student on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Henderson was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his long and distinguished career as Curator of Meteorites and because of his many memories of life and colleagues in the USNM.
Henderson was interviewed on nine occasions in 1984 and 1985 by Pamela M. Henson for the Smithsonian Archives Oral History Collection. The interviews cover his youth; education; career at the USGS; curatorship at the USNM, including his work on ores and minerals, stories about the Hope Diamond and other gemstones, his development of the meteorite collection and research techniques; his work on Japanese gemstones; his field trips in the United States and abroad; his life aboard a houseboat on the Potomac River; and reminiscences of colleagues and life at the United States National Museum.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Henderson, Edward P.
- Cooper, G. Arthur (Gustav Arthur), 1902-2000
- Foshag, William F. (William Frederick), 1894-1956
- Perry, Stuart H., 1874-1957
- Henson, Pamela M. interviewer
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Department of Mineral Sciences
- United States. Army
- Division of Meteorites (NMNH)
- Department of Geology (NMNH)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9529, Oral history interviews with Edward P. Henderson