Agency history, 1887-

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  • Dunkle, David Hosbrook
  • Emry, Robert J
  • Gazin, C. Lewis (Charles Lewis) 1904-1996
  • Gidley, James Williams 1866-1931
  • Gilmore, Charles W (Charles Whitney) 1874-1945
  • Hotton, Nicholas
  • Lucas, Frederic A (Frederic Augustus) 1852-1929
  • Marsh, Othniel Charles 1831-1899
  • Ray, Clayton Edward
  • Behrensmeyer, Anna K
  • Vaughn, Peter Paul 1928-
  • Leidy, Joseph 1823-1891
  • Cope, E. D (Edward Drinker) 1840-1897
  • 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
  • Smithsonian Annals
  • NMNH Website
  • Work in vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian Institution predates the formal establishment of a Department of Vertebrate Paleontology in the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1887. Joseph Leidy and E.D. Cope, among others, studied the fossil collections which had been gathered by the various government exploring expeditions and sent to the Smithsonian. With the organization of the USNM in 1880, the Department of Comparative Anatomy was given charge of the collections until the creation of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1887, with Othniel Charles Marsh as Honorary Curator. Since its creation, the present-day Division of Vertebrate Paleontology has undergone a number of organizational and title changes.
  • In 1894, the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology became a Section of the Department of Paleontology. The USNM reorganization of 1897 created a Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology in the Department of Geology, and Vertebrate Paleontology was made a Section of that Division. It became a separate Division in 1908, but in 1911 was again made a Section, this time of the Division of Paleontology. In 1924, this Division was renamed the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology, and Vertebrate Paleontology again became a separate Division. In 1963, the Department of Geology was abolished as part of a reorganization in the Museum of Natural History. At that time, Vertebrate Paleontology became a Division of the newly created Department of Paleobiology.
  • Curators and research staff of the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology have included Othniel Charles Marsh, Honorary Curator, 1887-1899; Frederic A. Lucas, Curator, intermittently from 1889 to 1904; James William Gidley, Preparator, Custodian of Fossil Mammals, and Assistant Curator, 1905-1931; Charles W. Gilmore, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator, 1911-1945; C. Lewis Gazin, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, Curator, and Senior Paleobiologist, 1932-1970; David Hosbrook Dunkle, Associate Curator, 1946-1967; Peter Paul Vaughn, Associate Curator, 1957-1959; Nicholas Hotton, Associate Curator, Curator, and Curator Emeritus, 1959-1997; Clayton Edward Ray, Associate Curator, Curator, and Curator Emeritus, 1964-1997; Robert J. Emry, Associate Curator, Curator, and Curator Emeritus, 1971-2011; and Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator, 1981- .
  • 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


  • 1887
  • 1887-


  • Paleoontology
  • Vertebrates, Fossil
  • Vertebrate paleontology
  • Paleontology
  • Paleobiology


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00049

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