Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Spencer Fullerton Baird (Died 19 Aug 1887; born 3 Feb 1823). American naturalist, vertebrate zoologist, and in his time the leading authority on North American birds and mammals. A pioneer in museum collecting and display, he was named the Smithsonian Institution’s second Secretary upon the death of the first Secretary, Joseph Henry. Whereas Henry had envisioned the Smithsonian primarily as a research institute, Baird saw Smithson’s gift as the means to develop a national museum. By 1878, Congress had formally given responsibility for the U.S. National Museum to the Smithsonian Institution. During the Baird years, the Smithsonian became a showcase for the nation’s history, resources, and treasures. By the end of his tenure, the National Museum housed more than 2.5 million specimens and artifacts.

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