BAIRD, Spencer Fullerton

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Spencer Fullerton Baird
Spencer Fullerton Baird

BAIRD, Spencer Fullerton (1823-1887) was born at Reading, Pennsylvania on February 3, 1823. As an ornithologist and zoologist, Baird did more than any other man of his time to advance the study of ornithology and other branches of zoology. Baird went to the Smithsonian Institution in 1850, and upon the death of Joseph Henry in 1878, he became Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, a position he held until his death in 1887. In 1871 he was named by Congress as the first Commissioner of the newly created United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. He organized the zoological work of the Pacific Railroad Surveys, describing and naming several genera and many species.

Baird named the Channel Islands fox, Urocyon littoralis. He published Catalogue of North American Mammals (1857), Catalogue of North American Birds (1858) and was co-author of A History of North American Birds (1874-1884).

Baird is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington. Baird’s sandpiper (Calidris bairdi), Baird’s sparrow (Ammodramus bairdi) and the Kauai creeper (Oreomystit bairdi) are named for Baird.

Palmer, T. S. Nomenclature of California Birds in Condor 30(5):267-268 September-October 1928:

BAIRD, Spencer Fullerton “Born at Reading, Pennsylvania, February 3, 1823; died at Woods Hole, Massachussetts, August 19, 1887. Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution for many years and Secretary from 1878 to 1887, founder of the U.S. National Museum, and organizer of the U.S. Fish Commission. As organizer of the zoological work of the Pacific Railroad Surveys, author of the Birds of North America, 1858, and co-author of Baird, Brewer and Ridgway's Land Birds, 1874, and Water Birds, 1884, editor of the various survey reports on zoology and of Cooper's Birds of California, 1870, Baird did more than any other man of his time to advance the study of ornithology and other branches of zoology. He described and named several genera and many speciesof birds that occur in California. Among those that bear his name are: Baird's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax p. resplendens), Baird's Sandpiper (Pisobia bairdi), Baird's woodpecker (Melanerpes f. bairdi), and Baird's Wren (Thyrothorus b. bairdi).”

» Baird, Spencer F. General Report upon the zoology of the several Pacific Railroad routes. I. Mammals in Reports of explorations and surveys to ascertain the most practicable and economic route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, vol. 8. Washington, D.C., 1857.

In the News~

May 26, 1888 [SBMP]: “Lobster’s Coming. An effort to introduce this shellfish in Pacific waters. A lobster excursion party in a special car is the latest immigration note of interest to Californians. These desirable settlers will doubtless start on their way from Wood’s Hole, Mass, within the next two weeks… Professor Baird, the Government Commissioner, took great interest in the possibilities of lobster culture on the coast, and shortly before his death had arranged details for the shipment that is now to come…”