The Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center

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  • Work focuses on the history of the Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center (SOSC), from its establishment in 1962 to "facilitate and hasten results of studies of the oceans." Explains the administration of the Center and outlines its primary functions, including offering details of the process through which preserved biological materials and sediments travelled, since such materials are not permanently accessioned. Work also covers the special problem of net- plankton, specimens of which often arrive at the center in large quantities, and the process for sorting algae. Finally, work discusses the handling of data, explaining that the SOSC publishes no material on its own and that the function of the center is mainly to aid specialists outside the SOSC.
  • Work touches on the administrative aspects of the center, mentioning the 1967 decision to consolidate record-keeping on all specimen collections and the need to institute automatic data processing and improved manual operations. This discussion is followed by an inventory of the equipment that the center holds to perform such tasks. Work then explores the curatorial investigations of the SOSC, explaining that the new organization is unable to afford all the proper equipment and how it salvages materials from General Services Administration. Here work stresses the frugality and inventiveness of the SOSC staff.
  • There is a brief summary of the training of staff, which includes mention of the National Science Foundation's sponsorship of students for the Summer Educational Programs, and mentions two students who completed research in that manner. There is a section on the visiting scientists who have worked at the SOSC, with the specifics of their projects and a section on the accomplishments of the SOSC. Finally, there is a brief history of the Mediterranean Marine Sorting Center in Tunisia, which grew out of the SOSC.


  • Stoertz, Cynthia
  • Wallen, I. E (Irvin Eugene) 1921-
  • Fehlmann, Herman Adair
  • Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center (SOSC)
  • United States General Services Administration
  • National Science Foundation


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Wallen was, at the time, head of the Office of Oceanography and Limnology. Fehlmann was chief of the SOSC. Stoertz was also a member of the SOSC staff.

Contained within

Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences Vol. 58 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Women
  • Scholarships
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Personnel management
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  • Museums
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees
  • Museum exhibits

Physical description

pp. 191-200

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