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Spencer Fullerton Baird (American National Biography)

Scholarship

Jerome A. Jackson, "Baird, Spencer Fullerton," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/13/13-00070.html.

Baird's personal research and field work were hampered and essentially ended as a result of his increasing administrative duties, but through his administration and the ability to attract and train young scientists, Baird became the great facilitator that took the Smithsonian, the U.S. National Museum, and American science in general great leaps forward. Even under Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian, Baird was the individual most in touch with and in support of museum collections, constantly seeking to enlarge the collections through purchase or exchange, with specific goals of clarifying species distribution patterns. He was also a great communicator, able to interpret science to the public. He wrote regularly for popular magazines and in 1871 became science editor for Harper's Weekly, a post he held for eight years.

Baird knew how to work with people, was an excellent judge of abilities, and had the gifts of knowing when and how to compromise and the perseverance to make bureaucracy work for science. His administrative accomplishments went well beyond science into international relations. For example, Baird assisted with negotiations for the purchase of Alaska, complex negotiations with England and Canada over fishing rights, and with preparations for the Centennial Exposition of 1876, in Philadelphia, commemorating the founding of the nation. The latter efforts, through shrewd planning and hard work, resulted in the Smithsonian's acquisition of many items from foreign exhibits and congressional recognition and funding for the construction of a U.S. National Museum building.

How to Cite This Page: "Spencer Fullerton Baird (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/20054.