1878 May 22 - 1949 January 7
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.
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