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Department ofVertebrate Zoology

Division of Fishes

Spencer F. Baird
Spencer F. Baird circa 1875
© Smithsonian Institution

John Strong Newberry (1822-1892)

John Strong Newberry is best known for his work as a geologist and paleontologist. He was the first scientist ever to reach the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and on that basis, he described the stratigraphy of the area. Although his published work dealt with fossils, he also collected many extant fishes in the course of his travels.

John Newberry
John Strong Newberry
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives

Newberry graduated from Western Reserve College in 1846 and from Cleveland Medical School in 1848. In 1849 he went to Paris, where he spent two years attending medical lectures and clinics and scientific lectures at the Jardin des Plantes. He returned to Cleveland in 1851 and opened a successful medical practice. His increasing interest in natural sciences, perhaps stimulated by his studies in Paris, led him to close his medical practice, and in 1855 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon, geologist and botanist to one of the Pacific Railroad Survey expeditions. Commanded by Lt. R. S. Williamson, the expedition explored the country between San Francisco Bay and the Columbia River. Newberry returned to Washington after the expedition, where he became Professor of Chemistry and Natural History at Columbian College (now George Washington University) while writing his report on the expedition. He returned to the west twice more: in 1857 as Physician and Naturalist to the Colorado Exploring Expedition under Lt. J. C. Ives, and in 1859 as Geologist to the San Juan Exploring Expedition under Capt. J. N. Macomb. During the Civil War, Newberry served with the Sanitary Commission. He was a Scientific Associate of the Smithsonian Institution in 1865, and in 1866 became the first Professor of Geology and Paleontology at Columbia University in New York, a position he held until his death. He also served a term as President of AAAS and was the President of the New York Academy of Sciences from 1868 until his death.

The goby, Eucyclogobius newberryi (Girard, 1856) is named after him, as is Salmo newberryi Girard, 1859, now considered a synonym of the rainbow trout.

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