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Spencer Fullerton Baird

Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823–87, American zoologist, b. Reading, Pa., grad. Dickinson College, 1840. He was professor of natural history at Dickinson from 1846 to 1850. While at the Smithsonian Institution (from 1850; as secretary from 1878) he supervised the building of a museum to house the collection of North American fauna that had been amassed under his guidance. In 1871, Congress established the U.S. Fish Commission with Baird as its head. Baird set up the Marine Biological Station at Woods Hole, Mass., organized the expeditions of the research ship Albatross, and initiated valuable studies on wildlife preservation. His publications (over 1,000 titles) show a phenomenal range of scientific work. His books on birds inaugurated the so-called Baird school of ornithological description, emphasizing accurate observation of each individual. Among other major studies were the Catalogue of North American Reptiles (with Charles Girard, 1853) and the Catalogue of North American Mammals (1857).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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