National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Medical Sciences.

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Smithsonian interest in the medical sciences dates back to the Toner Lecture Series, which was established by Joseph M. Toner in 1872. The Secretary of the Institution served on the Board of Trustees for the fund that supported the series, and the Smithsonian published the lectures, which took place between 1873 and 1890, in its Miscellaneous Collections.

In 1881, the Section of Materia Medica was established in the Department of Arts and Industries, United States National Museum (USNM), to curate medical specimens. Until 1900, the United States Navy detailed a Navy surgeon to act as honorary curator for the Section of Materia Medica. The surgeons included James M. Flint, 1881-1884, 1887-1891, and 1895-1900; Henry G. Beyer, 1884-1887; John C. Boyd, 1891-1892; William S. Dixon, 1892-1893; C. H. White, 1893; C. U. Gravatt, 1893-1894; R. A. Marmion, 1894; and Daniel McMurtrie, 1894-1895.

In 1897, the Section of Materia Medica became the Division of Medicine in the Department of Anthropology. Upon his retirement from the Navy, Flint volunteered to remain and served as Honorary Curator, 1900-1912. Until 1917, responsibility for the collections moved first to Walter Hough, Division of Ethnology, and then to Frederick L. Lewton, Division of Textiles. Lewton appointed Joseph Donner as Assistant Curator of the materia medica collection in 1917 and Charles Whitebread in 1918. Whitebread served as Assistant Curator, 1918-1938, and Associate Curator, 1939-1948.

Between 1931 and 1938, the Division merged with the Division of Textiles, under Lewton's direction. In 1938 the Division was separated from the Division of Textiles and established as the Division of Medicine and Public Health in the newly established Department of Engineering and Industries, and in 1957, upon the creation of the Museum of History and Technology, it was renamed the Division of Medical Sciences, reporting to the new Department of Science and Technology.

In 1969 the Museum of History and Technology was reorganized as the National Museum of History and Technology, and the Division of Medical Sciences remained a part of the Department of Science and Technology. A 1978 reorganization sent Medical Sciences to a new Department of History of Science. In 1980, with the creation of the National Museum of American History, Medical Sciences reported to the new Department of History of Science and Technology. Then, in 1995, it was assigned to the Department of Science, Medicine and Society, where it remained when Science, Medicine and Society began reporting to a new Department of History within the National Museum of American History.

Staff of the Division in this period have included George S. Thomas, Associate Curator, 1948-1952; George B. Griffenhagen, Associate Curator, 1952-1956, Curator, 1956-1959; John B. Blake, Associate Curator, 1957-1959, Curator, 1959-1961; Sami Khalaf Hamarneh, Associate Curator, 1960-1962, Curator, 1963-1972, Historian, 1972-1977, Curator Emeritus, 1982-1985; Audrey B. Davis, Assistant Curator, 1968-1969, Associate Curator, 1970-1977, and Curator, 1978-1994; Barbara Melosh, Curator, 1983-1991; and Ramunas Kondratis, Assistant Curator, 1977-1983, Curator, 1984- .

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Agency History. Record 218177

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Beyer, Henry G. person
associatedWith Blake, John B. person
associatedWith Boyd, John C. person
associatedWith Davis, Audrey B. person
associatedWith Dixon, William S. person
associatedWith Donner, Joseph. person
associatedWith Flint, James M. 1838-1919 person
associatedWith Gravatt, C. U. person
associatedWith Griffenhagen, George B. person
associatedWith Hamarneh, Sami Khalaf, 1925- person
associatedWith Hough, Walter, 1859-1935. person
associatedWith Kondratas, Ramunas person
associatedWith Lewton, Frederick Lewis, 1874- person
associatedWith Marmion, R. A. person
associatedWith McMurtrie, Daniel. person
associatedWith Melosh, Barbara person
associatedWith Thomas, George S. person
associatedWith Toner, Joseph M. 1825-1896. person
associatedWith Whitebread, Charles. person
associatedWith White, C. H. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Medical museums

Corporate Body

Active 1881

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Ark ID: w6nf20wm

SNAC ID: 41666564