Agency history, 1890-1994

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Creator

National Museum of American History (U.S.) Division of Physical Sciences

Subject

  • Bedini, Silvio A
  • Taylor, Frank A (Frank Augustus) 1903-2007
  • Watkins, J. Elfreth (John Elfreth) 1852-1903
  • Winlock, William Crawford
  • Cannon, Susan Faye 1925-1981
  • Merzbach, Uta C. 1933-
  • Warner, Deborah Jean
  • Multhauf, Robert P
  • Eklund, Jon B
  • Lewis, Lester Clark
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) Division of Physical Sciences and Mathematics
  • United States National Museum Section of Physical Sciences and Measurement
  • United States National Museum Section of Physical Apparatus
  • United States National Museum Section of Transportation and Civil Engineering
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.) Division of Physical Sciences
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.) Division of Mathematics

Category

Agency History

Notes

  • 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
  • In 1885 a Section of Steam Transportation was created in the Department of Arts and Industries, United States National Museum. This section was the parent of all the subsequent sections, divisions and departments which dealt with the history of science, technology, and instrumentation. In 1890 a Section of Physical Apparatus was established in the Department of Arts and Industries with William Crawford Winlock as Honorary Curator. In 1897 the Section became the Mechanical Phases collection in the Division of Technology, curated by J. Elfreth Watkins.
  • In 1938 the Section of Physical Sciences and Measurement was created from the Section of Mechanical Technology of the Division of Engineering. Frank A. Taylor, Curator of Engineering, assumed curatorial responsibility for Physical Sciences and Measurement, serving in this capacity until 1955. His successor, Robert P. Multhauf, was Curator of the Section from 1955 to 1957. In 1957 the Section of Physical Sciences and Measurement became the Division of Physical Sciences, Department of Science and Technology, in the Museum of History and Technology (MHT). Multhauf served as Curator of the Division until the position was assigned to Susan Faye Cannon (prior to 1976, Walter F. Cannon) in 1965.
  • In 1965 a Section of Mathematics and Antique Instruments was created in the Division of Physical Sciences under Uta C. Merzbach, Associate Curator. The Section was renamed the Section of Mathematics in 1968, and Merzbach reported to Silvio A. Bedini, Assistant Director for the Museum. In 1970 the Section of Mathematics became part of the Division of Electricity and Nuclear Energy. From 1974 to 1977, the Section of Mathematics reported to the Chairman of the Department of Science and Technology. In 1978 it became the Division of Mathematics in the Department of History of Science; and in 1987, it merged with the Division of Physical Sciences to form the Division of Physical Sciences and Mathematics within the Department of History of Science and Technology. In 1989 the name of the Division became Physical and Biological Sciences, and in 1990 the name reverted to the Division of Physical Sciences. Around 1994 the Division ceased to be a reporting office and was merged into the Division of Science, Medicine, and Society.
  • Research and collections of the Division of Physical Sciences principally focused on the history of astronomy, meteorology, chemistry, classical physics, geology, astrophysics, and mathematics. The Division of Mathematics and its predecessors were concerned with the history of mathematical calculating instruments, both domestic and foreign, dating back to the eighteenth century. The Division prepared exhibitions for the Hall of Mathematics and collected artifacts such as planimeters, slide rules, mechanical calculators, digital electronic computers, and astrolabes.
  • Curators and staff of the Division included Robert P. Multhauf, Curator of the Section of Physical Sciences and Measurement, 1955-1957, Curator of the Division of Physical Sciences, 1957-1965; Susan Faye Cannon, Associate Curator, 1962-1964, Curator, 1965-1979; Lester Clark Lewis, Curator, 1962; Uta C. Merzbach, Associate Curator and Curator, 1964-1988; Deborah Jean Warner, Assistant Curator, 1964-1966, 1968-1969, Associate Curator, 1970-1979, Curator, 1980-1994; and Jon B. Eklund, Assistant Curator, 1968-1969, Associate Curator, 1970-1982, and Curator, 1983-1994.
  • 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

Date

  • 1956
  • 1956-1988
  • 1890-1994

Topic

  • Physical sciences
  • Mathematics
  • History
  • Mathematics--History
  • Physical sciences--History

Form/Genre

Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00111