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Dean, Bashford, 1867-1928


Biographical Note

Bashford Dean (1867-1928), known for his contributions to the studies of armor, zoology, and ichthyology, was the first Curator of Fishes in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and the founding Curator of the Department of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Born October 28, 1867 in New York City, Dean had an interest in armor from a young age. He progressed through his education swiftly, starting at City College at 14 years old and graduating in 1886, after which he became a natural history tutor at the college. He worked briefly for the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. He went on to get his PhD in Zoology and Paleontology from Columbia University in 1891 and studied under John Strong Newberry. At 23 years of age, his dissertation was entitled "Pineal Fontanelle of Placoderm and Catfish." Dean started teaching at Columbia after his PhD, first as a Biology Instructor until 1896, then an Assistant Zoology Professor until 1904, and finally as a full Professor of Vertebrate Zoology. A lifelong resident of New York City, he married Alice Dyckman, also of New York City, in 1893.

After being made Curator of Fishes in the VP department, Bashford did work on Devonian vertebrates, embryology of modern primitive fishes such as cyclostomes, sharks, and chimaeroids. As the Curator, Dean, along with his assistant, Louis Hussakof, planned and directed the installation of a series of mounted habitat groups, illustrating the life and habits of the ganoid fishes. He and his staff also installed the synoptic exhibit of fishes and the "fossil aquarium," containing life-like restorations of many of the fossil fishes of the Old Red Sandstone of Scotland. The AMNH assisted in his extensive work, "Bibliography of Fishes," which he collaborated on with Dr. E. W. Gudger and which won Dean the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the National Academy of Science in 1923. He was named Curator Fossil and Recent Fishes in the Department of Ichthyology and Herpetology in 1909. Bashford was Curator Emeritus from 1913-1917 and Honorary Curator until his death. He also worked on research for the US Fishery Commission, which was later used as a textbook. He wrote articles highlighting the work of naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamark, for which France gave him the Order of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. His untimely death at age 61 due to surgery complications led him to miss the opening of the Hall of Fishes, which showcased his contributions to AMNH. The Bashford Dean Memorial Library, run jointly by the AMNH Library and the Department of Ichthyology, is named for him.

Dean was also a Guest Curator at the Metropolitan Museum of art from 1904-1906, then Honorary Curator from 1906-1912, before becoming the founding Curator of the Department of Arms and Armor in 1912. Dean participated in the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, becoming its first president in 1916, and other associations . He served in the Bureau of Ordnance, U.S. Army, in World War One. He also developed helmets for US soldiers in WW1 based on his knowledge of historical armor. He later served for a year on the Board of Trustees at the Met. In 1925, Dean became professor of fine arts at New York University.

Selected Bibliography

Dean, Bashford, Charles Rochester Eastman, and E. W Gudger. A Bibliography of Fishes. Koenigstein-Ts./B.R.D.: Otto Koeltz, 1972.

Dean, Bashford. Chimæroid Fishes and Their Development. Carnegie Institution of Washington. Publication, No. 32. Washington, D.C.: Published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1906.

Dean, Bashford. The Columbia University Zoological Expedition of 1896: With a Brief Account of the Work of Collecting in Puget Sound and on the Pacific Coast. New York: Published by the Academy, N.Y, 1896.

Dean, Bashford. The Dutch Expedition to the Malay Archipelago. New York: MacMillan, 1902.

Dean, Bashford. The Egg Cases of Chimæroid Fishes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1904.

Dean, Bashford. The Eggs of the Eastern Atlantic Hag-Fish: Myxine Limosa Gir. New York: MacMillan, 1903.

Dean, Bashford. Fishes, Living and Fossil: An Outline of Their Forms and Probable Relationships. [Columbia University Biological Series. Vol. 3.]. New York: Macmillan, 1895.

Dean, Bashford, Francis B Sumner, and Francis B Sumner. Notes on the Spawning Habits of the Brook Lamprey (Petromyzon Wilderi). New York: Published by the Academy, N.Y, 1897.

Dean, Bashford. Gossip About Lamarck. New York: MacMillan, 1904.

Dean, Bashford, and Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Helmets and Body Armor in Modern Warfare. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Publication of the Committee on Education. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1920.

Dean, Bashford. On the New Genus of Lamprey: Macrophthalmia Chilensis. New York: MacMillan, 1899.

Dean, Bashford, and New York Academy of Sciences. The Egg of the Hag-Fish : Myxine Glutinosa, Linnaeus. New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1900.

Dean, Bashford, New York Academy of Sciences, and New Era Printing Company. The Devonian "Lamprey," Palæospondylus Gunni, Traquair : With Notes on the Systematic Arrangement of the Fish-Like Vertebrates. New York Academy of Sciences. Memoirs, V. Ii, Pt. I. New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1900.

Dean, Bashford. Notes on Living Nautilus. Boston: Press of McCalla & Stavely, Phil, 1901.

Dean, Bashford. Note on the Ventral Armoring of Dinichthys. New York: Published by the Academy, N.Y, 1896.

Dean, Bashford. On a New Species of Edestus, E. Lecontei, from Nevada. New York: Published by the Academy, N.Y, 1896.

Dean, Bashford. On the Embryology of Bdellostoma Stouti : A General Account of Myxinoid Development from the Egg and Segmentation to Hatching. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer in Jena, 1899.

Dean, Bashford. The Seventieth Birthday of Carl Von Kupffer: His Life and Works. New York: MacMillan, 1900.

Dean, Bashford. Studies on Fossil Fishes : (Sharks, Chimæroids and Arthrodires). Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, V. 9, Pt. 5. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1909.

Dean, Bashford, and Zoological Society of London. Notes on the Living Specimens of the Australian Lung-Fish, Ceratodus Forsteri, in the Zoological Society's Collection. London: Zoological Society, 1906.

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), Bashford Dean, and William Henry Riggs. Handbook of Arms and Armor: European and Oriental, Including the William H. Riggs Collection. New York: The Gilliss Press, 1915.


“A Look at the Life of Bashford Dean,”

“Bashford Dean,” AMNH Authority File,

“Bashford Dean and the Development of Helmets and Body Armor during World War I,”

“Bashford Dean,” Department of Vertebrate Paleontology Personnel, VPA 7, Box 1, Folder 4

“Bashford Dean Dies after Operation,” The New York Times,

“Bashford Dean,”

“Ichthyology Department: History”,

William K. Gregory, Science, December 28, 1928, Volume 68, No. 1774, pages 635-638

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Bashford Dean papers

Identifier: Mss .D433-.D434

Bashford Dean (1867-1928) was a teacher, ichthyologist, and armor scholar. As curator, he headed emergent departments at the American Museum of Natural History (Reptiles and Fishes, 1903-1910) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (curator, Arms and Armor, 1904-1912) in New York City. The Bashford Dean Papers primarily consists of correspondence and sketchbooks.

Dates: 1888-1961 and unknown; Majority of material found within 1901-1902

William King Gregory papers, 1889-1948 (bulk 1906-1948)

Identifier: Mss .G7441
Scope and Contents The collection consists of administrative, scientific, academic and personal papers, and correspondence. Papers include Gregory's general correspondence with universities, colleges and scientists about his research topics and publications; correspondence with museums about purchasing replicas of fossils; and with students seeking employement. Other papers include lecture notes prepared for zoology classes emphasizing evolution, 1925-1926 and 1939; and manuscripts and notes for his...
Dates: 1889-1948; Majority of material found within 1906-1948

Scrapbook of the Senff Zoölogical Expedition to the Nile Valley

Identifier: Mss .S46
Scope and Contents

Letters, visiting cards, and clippings from the expedition mounted on scrapbook pages. Many letters are addressed to Henry Fairfield Osborn and Bashford Dean.

Dates: 1898-1899