Edward Kubel (1820-1896) -- Washington, D.C. Instrument Maker, With Notes on His Descendants Having Careers in Science and Technology

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  • This biographical article concerns one family and the contributions its members have made over the past 150 years to the worlds of science and technology. The author begins with Edward Kubel, a German who emigrated to the United States in 1849 and worked for an employer contracted by the predecessor of the U.S. Geological Survey to produce astronomical and geodetical instruments. After his employer's retirement, Kubel took over the business; some instruments he manufactured, such as his lathe, are in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. One of Kubel's employees was Andrew Kramer, who later worked for the Smithsonian Institution, making precision measuring instruments and models to assist Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley in his aviation and sun radiation experiments.
  • The author then gives short biographies of Edward's children and grandchildren who were prominent in scientific areas. Among these were sons Stephen, who held the position of Chief Engraver at the U.S.G.S. for 42 years until his 1932 retirement, and Ernest, who took over his father's business in 1896 and was engaged by Smithsonian Secretary Langley at various times between 1892 and 1896 to produce scientific instruments for his fields of research. Edward's grandson Frank Augustus Taylor was employed by the Smithsonian in 1922 to maintain exhibits and make models for new displays in the Arts and Industries Building. In 1932 he was promoted to curator of the Engineering Division and worked on outreach and historic preservation projects.
  • After World War II, he directed the program to revitalize exhibits and as its director, initiated planning for the Museum of History and Technology. Soon after it opened in 1964, Taylor became director of the U. S. National Museum, and later Director General of all the Smithsonian museums. The recipient of many awards, including the Joseph Henry Medal, Taylor retired in 1971 but continued on as an advisor until 1984. He received further honors in 1989 when the Smithsonian Regents named a National Museum of American History exhibition hall after him.


  • Kubel, Stephen Joseph
  • Taylor, Frank A (Frank Augustus) 1903-2007
  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Kramer, Andrew
  • Kubel, Edward
  • Kubel, Ernest Philip
  • United States National Museum
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.)
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) (NMAH)
  • Arts and Industries Building


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Twenty-eight figures and an extensive Reference section accompany the article. Note should be made of an error on Page 277: "long career of one of Kubel's great-grandsons at the Smithsonian Institution" actually refers to his grandson, Frank Augustus Taylor.

Contained within

Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences Vol. 85, No. 4 (Journal)

Contact information

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


December 1998


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  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees

Physical description

Pages 247-279

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