Agency history, 1880-

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  • Yarrow, H. C (Harry Crécy) 1840-1929
  • Stejneger, Leonhard 1851-1943
  • Cochran, Doris M (Doris Mable) 1898-1968
  • Peters, James Arthur 1922-1972
  • Zug, George R. 1938-
  • Heyer, W. Ronald
  • De Queiroz, Kevin
  • Girard, Charles Frederic
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • United States National Museum


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Guide to the Smithsonian Archives
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution
  • Smithsonian Year
  • Backbone: Newsletter of the Department of VertebrateZoology, National Museum of Natural History, SmithsonianInstitution.
  • The collection of reptiles and amphibians under the care of the Smithsonian Institution had its origins in the collection of Spencer F. Baird, which he presented to the Institution when he came to Washington to accept the position of Assistant Secretary in 1850. For the next three decades there was no curator officially in charge of the collection, and most of the early publications resulting from the collection were produced by Baird and Charles Frederic Girard, who from 1850 to 1860 was Baird's chief assistant. H.C. Yarrow, an army surgeon, was appointed Honorary Curator of Herpetology in 1879. A Department of herpetology was established during the initial organization of the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1880.
  • During the early 1880s the Department was know variously as the Department of Herpetology, the Department of Reptiles, and the Department of Reptiles and Batrachians. By about 1885, the latter title had become standard. In 1897, as a result of a reorganization of the USNM, it became the Division of Reptiles and Batrachians of the newly created Department of Biology. In 1947, the name was changed to Division of Reptiles and Amphibians. The same year, the Division came under the administrative control of the Department of Zoology, and in 1964 became a division of the newly established Department of Vertebrate Zoology.
  • The Division is responsible for managing one of the largest and most important collections of reptiles and amphibians in the world. Its staff performs a variety of collection management activities including accessioning and cataloging new collections, preparing specimens, and loaning specimens to researchers unable to visit Washington. Divisional curators undertake research programs which often utilize the collections.
  • Curators of the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians have included H.C. Yarrow, Honorary Curator, 1879-1889; Leonhard Stejneger, Curator, 1889-1943; Doris M. Cochran, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator, 1927-1968; James Arthur Peters, Associate Curator and Curator, 1964-1972; George R. Zug, Associate Curator and Curator, 1969- ; W. Ronald Heyer, Associate Curator and Curator, 1972- ; and Kevin de Queiroz, Assistant Curator and Associate Curator,1991- .
  • For a history of the larger creating unit, refer to "Forms part of" above.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1880
  • 1880-


  • Reptiles
  • Vertebrates
  • Animals
  • Vertebrate zoology
  • Amphibians


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00036

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