Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9559
Fairchild, G. B. (Graham Bell) interviewee
Oral history interview with Graham Bell Fairchild, 1989
Graham Bell Fairchild (1906-1994), was born in Washington, D.C. In his youth, Fairchild was introduced to tropical biology while visiting Barro Colorado Island (BCI) research station of the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA) with his father, David Grandison Fairchild. He received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in entomology from Harvard University where he studied under William Morton Wheeler, Joseph Charles Bequaert, and Thomas Barbour. Before and during his years at Harvard he also worked at the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) studying the collections.
Fairchild began his career as an entomologist stationed in Brazil with the Yellow Fever Service of the Rockefeller Foundation, from 1935 to 1937. From 1938 to 1971, he worked as an Entomologist at Gorgas Memorial Laboratory in Panama City, Panama, and from 1958 to 1971 he served as Assistant Director. At Gorgas his research focused on the taxonomy of medically important insects, especially Tabanidae and Psychodidae. During his years in Panama, he observed the development of the BCI research station from a small university consortium to Smithsonian aegis as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).
The Canal Zone Biological Area was established in 1923 on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in the Panama Canal as a reserve for scientific study of the tropics. Originally designed as a consortium of universities and government agencies by Thomas Barbour, William Morton Wheeler, James Zetek, and others, CZBA was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1946 and in 1966 was renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
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 conducts 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 students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Graham Bell Fairchild was interviewed for the Oral History Collection by Hagen because of his involvement with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in its early years.
The Graham Bell Fairchild Interview was conducted for the Smithsonian Archives on 7 June 1989 by Joel B. Hagen, a Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow, as part of his research on the history of the Canal Zone Biological Area. This interview discusses Fairchild's reminiscences of CZBA and the scientists involved in its development, notably James Zetek, William Morton Wheeler, and Thomas Barbour; his father's interests in the tropics; the development of STRI under Smithsonian administration; the biology faculty at Harvard and the MCZ; and his career in medical entomology. Box 1 contains the transcript and a cassette copy of the original recording, which is in security storage.
The Graham Bell Fairchild Interview recording may not be reproduced without the permission of his heirs or assigns.
Restricted. For information about use of this interview, contact SIHistory@si.edu.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Fairchild, Graham Bell, 1906-1994
- Fairchild, David Grandison
- Hagen, Joel B. interviewer
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Canal Zone Biological Area
- Harvard University
- Harvard University. Museum of Comparative Zoology
- Gorgas Memorial Laboratory (Panama)
- Yellow Fever Service. Rockefeller Foundation
- Canal Zone Biological Area. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9559, Fairchild, G. B. (Graham Bell) interviewee, Oral history interview with Graham Bell Fairchild