Fisher, Clyde, 1878-1949

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Exist Dates

1878 May 22 - 1949 January 7

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
George Clyde Fisher, known as Clyde, was a scientist and educator who worked for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) from 1913 until his retirement in 1941. He worked in the Department of Education before his involvement in the development of the Astronomy department. He was instrumental in the planning and execution of the Hayden Planetarium, and acted as its first curator when it opened in 1935.

Clyde Fisher was born near Sidney, Ohio on May 22, 1878. As a child he developed an appreciation of science and nature; notably learning aspects of astronomy from two uncles. Besides astronomy, a well-rounded field of interest would lead him to study botany, ornithology, paleontology, mammalogy and geology. (8) In the early 20th century, he would begin to correspond with naturalist John Burroughs, who would go on to become a friend and mentor. (9) After attending Miami University, Fisher went on to Johns Hopkins University, where he received his PhD in 1913. At this point he was working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, NY, but that year he was recruited by AMNH Department of Education Curator George Sherwood and was hired as an Assistant Curator. He became known as a ‘Jack of all trades’ at the Museum and extremely valuable in organizing and developing educational programs. (8) In 1924 the Museum leaders asked him to contribute his skills to the burgeoning Department of Astronomy. In fact, he was at first simply listed as “in charge” of the department in the AMNH Annual Report staff listings, as well as his listing in the Education Department. He traveled to Germany to study the new technology of Zeiss projectors and planetariums (2). Upon his return the Museum continued to build the Astronomy department with plans for a Planetarium space. Eventually funding was received through a federal loan and a contribution by financier Charles Hayden, for whom it would be named. Clyde Fisher was essential to the organization, design, promotion and development of content for the Planetarium. On October 3, 1935, it opened to the public, with Fisher as Curator of the Department of Astronomy and the Hayden Planetarium.

Under Fisher’s leadership, the Hayden Planetarium quickly grew very popular through its educational shows, promotional events, the Junior Astronomy Club and the Sky Magazine. The Department of Astronomy was involved with the World’s Fair in 1939, with Fisher giving a lecture on astronomy. (8) He wrote prodigiously to promote the subject of astronomy, as well as science education in general. Fisher also undertook much field work on behalf of the Museum, both on formal and casual research trips. Among these were the 1927 Woodcraft Indian trip in the western United States, for which he acted as co-leader and during which he was adopted into the North Dakota Sioux tribe and given the name Mato-koki-popi (Afraid of Bear.) (2) He also participated in a trip to Siberia with the Harvard-MIT Eclipse Expedition, as well as organized and led the 1937 AMNH Grace-Peruvian Eclipse Expedition. After his retirement from active work at AMNH in 1941, he continued to participate in expeditionary work with the Paricutin Expedition in 1943-1944. It is notable that neither the 1927 and 1943-44 expeditions were for astronomical research, a testament to Fisher’s vast scope of interest and expertise.

Fisher’s first marriage to Bessie Wiley in 1905 would end in divorce. He had three daughters from that union. In 1933 he married Te Ata. Born Mary Thompson, she was a world renowned Chickasaw princess, storyteller and actress who was largely responsible for promoting and interpreting Native American folklore, and took part in the Paricutin Expedition. After his retirement in 1941 the couple traveled extensively, continuing their work and research. Fisher died in 1949 in New York City.

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1934-2006.
    (2)"Dr. Clyde Fisher, Astronomer, Dies" New York Times (New York, NY), January 8, 1949. In Clyde Fisher Personal File, AMNH Special Collections
    (3) American Museum of Natural History. "Scientific Staff," Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1934-2006.
    (4) Fisher, Clyde. "Eclipse in Peru" Natural History 40, no. 4 (November 1937). 631-640.
    (5) Pough, Frederick H. "Paricutin Comes of Age" Natural History 53, no. 8 (October 1944). 342-349.
    (6) "Who Is Te Ata? Chickasaw Nation and National Museum of the American Indian Celebrate the Life of the Native Storyteller," newsdesk.si.edu, last modified June 22, 2012. Retrieved from http://newsdesk.si.edu/releases/who-te-ata-chickasaw-nation-and-national-museum-american-indian-celebrate-life-native-story
    (7) Yearly Staff Biography, Clyde Fisher, January 22, 1940. In Clyde Fisher Personal File.
    (8) Barton, D.H. "He Brought the Stars to America" Natural History 46, no. 1 (June 1940). 59-63.
    (9) Fisher, Clyde "With John Burroughs at Slabsides" Natural History 31, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1931). 500-510.
    Library of Congress Name Authority File, n82051111

Chronology

  • 1927: North Dakota (state)External link (Expedition Site) The AMNH Woodcraft Indian trip traveled from North Dakota to Arizona.
  • 1927: Arizona (state)External link (Expedition Site) The AMNH Woodcraft Indian trip traveled from North Dakota to Arizona.
  • 1937: Peru (nation)External link (Expedition Site) Fisher led the Hayden Planetarium-Grace Peruvian Eclipse Expedition to Peru in 1937.
  • 1943 - 1944: Paricutín, Volcá External link (Expedition Site) Fisher acted as scientist on the Paricutin Expedition in 1943-1944 to study Mount Paricutin.

Terms

localDescription
male
localDescription
American
localDescription
enhanced
localDescription
affiliated person
place
New YorkExternal link
Fisher resided in New York City for much of his adult life and was employed by the American Museum of Natural History which is located in New York City, New York.
place
Peru (nation)External link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1937

Fisher led the Hayden Planetarium-Grace Peruvian Eclipse Expedition to Peru in 1937.
place
Paricutín, Volcá External link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1943-1944

Fisher acted as scientist on the Paricutin Expedition in 1943-1944 to study Mount Paricutin.
place
Sidney, Ohio.External link
Fisher was born in Sidney Ohio. (2)
place
Siberia (general region) External link
(Expedition Site)

Fisher took part in the Harvard-MIT Eclipse Expedition in Siberia.
place
North Dakota (state)External link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1927

The AMNH Woodcraft Indian trip traveled from North Dakota to Arizona.
place
Arizona (state)External link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1927

The AMNH Woodcraft Indian trip traveled from North Dakota to Arizona.

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

employedBy
American Museum of Natural History
associated dates: 1913-1942

Fisher was first employed by the American Museum of Natural History in June of 1913 as an assistant curator in the Department of Public Education (1, 1914 p. 44) and retired in 1941, taking the title of Honorary Curator. (1, 1942 p. 39)
spouseOf
Ata, Te
associated dates: 1933-1949

Second wife of Fisher, married in 1933. Born Mary Thompson, Te Ata (1895-1995) was a world-renowned Chickasaw storyteller and actress famed for interpreting and promomoting knowledge of American Indian folklore. Was the first Native American woman to receive a theater degree from the Oklahoma College for Women, and performed both on Broadway and for many international and American dignitaries. (6) She traveled with Fisher on much of his research field trips, including the Paricutin Expedition.
colleagueOf
Barton, Jr., William H., 1893-1944
associated dates: 1935-1941

Worked with Fisher in the AMNH Department of Astronomy as Associate Curator from 1935 to 1936 (3, 1936-1937) and Executive Curator from 1937 to 1941. (3, 1938-1942) When Fisher retired, he took over as Chairman and Curator. (3, 1943-1945) He took part in the Grace Peruvian Eclipse Expedition (1, 1938 p. 57)
colleagueOf
Bennett, Dorothy A. (Agnes)
associated dates: 1935-1939

Bennett worked with Fisher in the AMNH Department of Astronomy as an Assistant Curator between 1935 and 1939. (3, 1936-1940) She took part in the Grace-Peruvian Eclipse Expedition. (1, 1938 p. 57)
siblingOf
Borror, Mrs. George
Clyde Fisher's sister (2)
influencedBy
Burroughs, John
Well-known American botanist, was a friend of and influence on Fisher.
worksWith
Butler, Howard Russell
Artist who contributed paintings for the Hayden Planetarium, including a triptych depicting eclipses. (1, 1936 p. 8) His paintings had previously been a highlight of the Museum's first astronomy 'room' in 1924 (1, 1925 32-33.)
colleagueOf
Coles, Charles
Head of the Photographic Department at the Museum, Coles was official photographer for the American Museum of Natural History Grace Peruvian Eclipse Expedition in 1937. (4)
worksWith
Davis, Leonard Moore (1864-1938)
Artist who contributed paintings of the Northern Lights for the Hayden Planetarium. (1, 1936 p. 8)
worksWith
Defendale, F. Hugh
associated dates: 1943-1944

Pilot of Paricutin Expedition (5)
Department of Astrophysics
associated dates: 1924-1942

Fisher was the first curator of what was then known as the Deparment of Astronomy from its inception in 1924, when he was listed as "in charge" (3, 1925)
colleagueOf
Draper, Arthur L.
associated dates: 1935-1940

Worked with Fisher as an Assistant Curator in the AMNH Department of Astronomy from 1935 to 1940. (3, 1936-1941)
childOf
Feller, Mrs. Peter
Clyde Fisher's daughter (2)
siblingOf
Fisher, Howard
Clyde Fisher's brother (2)
siblingOf
Fisher, Otto O.
Clyde Fisher's brother, took part in and sponsored the Paricutin Expedition (5)
siblingOf
Fisher, P.C.
Clyde Fisher's brother (2)
participantIn
Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Eclipse Expedition to Siberia
Fisher accompanied this Expedition. (2)
Hayden Planetarium
associated dates: 1935-1942

Fisher was the first curator of the Hayden Planetarium as well as being critically instrumental in the design and development of the space, publicity and programming. (2)
participantIn
Hayden Planetarium-Grace Peruvian Expedition
Expedition to Peru to document the total solar eclipse. Led by Fisher, the expedition had many personnel and executed radio broadcasts. It resulted in a large amount of visual material for the AMNH Astronomy department and the recently opened Hayden Planetarium. Scientifically the expedition was also able to document the globular corona phenomenon. This included paintings, as well as both still and motion photography and film. The expedition was organized into five groups to capture the eclipse at various stages and vantage points. (4)
Johns Hopkins UniversityExternal link
associated dates: --1913

Fisher received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1913. (7)
childOf
Johnstone, Mrs. O.P.
Clyde Fisher's daughter (2)
colleagueOf
Knight, Charles Robert (1874-1953)
Knight was an extremely well known artist with a strong relationship to the Museum. He executed a painting of the astronomical mythology of North American Indians for the Planetarium when it opened. (1, 1936 p. 7)
siblingOf
Lewis Mrs. John
Clyde Fisher's sister (2)
colleagueOf
Lockwood, Marian, 1899-
associated dates: 1935-1941

Lockwood worked with Fisher in the AMNH Department of Astronomy from 1935 to 1942, (3, 1936-1943)
childOf
Mahnken, Mrs. Harry
Clyde Fisher's daughter (2)
employedBy
Marine Biological Laboratories
Fisher studied and worked at the Laboratories in Cold Spring Harbor, NY before AMNH.
Miami UniversityExternal link
associated dates: --1926

Fisher received his A.B. from Miami University in 1905 and his LL.D. in 1926. (7)
participantIn
Paricutin Expedition
associated dates: 1943-1944

Fisher acted as a scientist on the second venture of the Parícutin Expedition of 1943-1944, which studied the volcanic activity of Mount Parícutin in Mexico. (5)
colleagueOf
Pough, Frederick H.
associated dates: 1943-1944

AMNH Department of Geology and Mineralogy Chairman and Curator, scientist and photographer on Paricutin Expedition (5)
colleagueOf
Seton, Ernest Thompson
Co-leader with Fisher of Woodcraft Indian Trip in 1927.
colleagueOf
Sherwood, George
Curator of Education at AMNH at the time Fisher was hired to department.
worksWith
Stephens, D. Owen (Daniel Owen), 1893-1937
Stephens was a scientist and artist who, sponsored by the Junior Astronomy Club, accompanied the 1937 Hayden Planetarium-Grace Peruvian Eclipse Expedition, contributing six canvases as well as others to the Department. He died on the expedition's return journey from Peru. (4)
spouseOf
Wiley, Bessie
associated dates: 1905--

Clyde Fisher's first wife; they divorced. (2)
participantIn
Woodcraft Indian Trip
Fisher was co-leader with Ernest Thompson Seton on the Woodcraft Indian Trip to the American region between North Dakota and Arizona in 1927. The purpose of the trip was to study and photograph Native American dancing and sign talking. (1, 1928 p.22)

Related Resources

creatorOf
Camping among the Indians [videorecording.]
Creator: George Clyde Fisher, photographer. Extent: 1 videocassette (22 min.) : si., b&w ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 22. Note: U-matic; Original Format: 16mm film; English subtitles.
creatorOf
Indian pottery making in the village of San Ildefonso, New Mexico [videorecording.]
Creator: Clark Wissler and Kenneth Chapman, directors; George Clyde Fisher, photographer. Extent: 1 videocassette (29 min.) : si., b&w ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 197. Note: U-matic; Original Format: 35mm negative.
subjectOf
Parícutin [videorecording.]
associated dates: 1943-1944

Creator: Frederick H. Pough, photographer. Extent: 1 videocassette (43 min.) : si., col. ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 251. Note: U-matic; Original Format: 16mm film; incomplete.
creatorOf
Southwest Indians [videorecording.]
Creator: George Clyde Fisher, photographer. Extent:1 videocassette (12 min.) : si., b&w ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 278. Note: U-matic; Original format: 35 mm. negative; incomplete.
other
The Peruvian Eclipse Expedition [videorecording.]
Creator: William H. Barton, Jr., and Charles H. Coles, photographers. Extent: 1 videocassette (13 min.) : si., col. ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 253. Notes: U-matic; Original format: 16 mm. print.
subjectOf
The school service at the American Museum of Natural History [videorecording.]
Creator: William H. Carr and Irving Dutcher, photographers; AMNH and New York City Dept. of Education, producers. Extent:1 videocassette (28 min.) : si., b&w ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 271. Note: U-matic; Original format: 16 mm. print; incomplete.
creatorOf
(George) Clyde Fisher Papers (PP)
associated dates: 1903-1912

Creator: George Clyde Fisher. Extent: 5 linear inches; I box. Repository: Archives, The New York Botanical Garden. Call Phrase: Fisjer (PP).
subjectOf
D. Owen Stephens collection, 1937 May 14-1937 June 8.
Creator: Stephens, D. Owen (Daniel Owen), 1893-1937. Extent: 1 box (1 linear foot). Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Mss .S747 1937.
subjectOf
Hayden Planetarium papers, 1927-1988.
associated dates: 1927-1949

Creator: American Museum of Natural History. Extent: 100 boxes (50 linear feet). Repository: AMNH Special Collections, DR 192.
subjectOf
[Brochures, reprints, letters, etc. about the Hayden Planetarium : including the invitation to the ground breaking ceremony, held May 28, 1934].
associated dates: 1934-1935

Creator: American Museum of Natural History. Extent: 1 album (108 leaves) : ill. ; 33 cm. Repository: AMNH Rare Book Collection, PC-1-G. Note: In box, 38 x 31 x 8 cm.

Written by: Kendra Meyer
Last modified: 2019 August 6


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