Spencer Baird and Ichthyology at the Smithsonian
Although Spencer Baird is best known for his scientific work on birds and mammals, he actually published more papers on fishes than any other group of animals (Goode, 1883). Most of these papers were short, however, dealing with popular aspects of fishes and fisheries. While Baird's interest in fishes goes back to the early 1850s, his role in developing ichthyology at the Smithsonian became pronounced in the 1870s, following his appointment as Commissioner of Fishes. The ichthyologists who worked at the Smithsonian during the latter half of the 19th century were among the leading scientists of their time. Yet when they arrived, they were young and unknown. In each case, Baird was able to see their potential and gave them the opportunity to develop their talents. Here we profile those who studied and published on fishes at the Smithsonian during that era.
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