George Brown Goode Dies

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  • George Brown Goode (1851-1896), Assistant Secretary in charge of the U.S. National Museum, dies at his Washington, D.C., home at the age of forty-five from overwork and a suspected case of consumption and/or emphysema. "Science" magazine calls him "one of the ablest and best men in America." George Brown Goode was instrumental in helping the Smithsonian progress during his tenure as Assistant Secretary under Secretary Spencer Baird. Goode helped to move the Smithsonian from being an eclectic collection of oddities and scientific specimen into a place not just of research but of public learning through well-crafted exhibits. Goode wrote and published extensively on what he believed the structure and purpose of museums should be, and helped to define the modern conception of what the function of a museum is.
  • Upon his death, which was unexpected to his colleagues at the Smithsonian and the scientific community, a tribute was organized for Goode. The Smithsonian held a memorial service in which distinguished colleagues of Goode were given the opportunity to explain how indispensable the man had been to them both personally and professionally. Goode was a great administrator (he almost ran the Smithsonian single-handedly during Baird's final years of poor health) and motivator of men, and his absence was deeply felt by his colleagues. The Smithsonian also published a second volume, "Part II" to the Annual Report of 1897, in honor of George Brown Goode, in which his writings on the direction of science and museums were republished.


  • Goode, G. Brown (George Brown) 1851-1896
  • United States National Museum
  • Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 501, 841.
  • Oehser, Paul H. The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970, p. 45.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1897. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901, p. 16.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1897. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901. Part II, Annual Report of the U. S. National Museum, 1897.
  • Kohlstedt, Sally Gregory, ed. The Origin of Natural Science in America. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

Contact information

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


September 6, 1896


  • Assistant Secretaries
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