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Fisher, Clyde, 1878-1949



  • Existence: 1878-05-22 - 1949-01-07



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.

(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,", last modified June 22, 2012. Retrieved from

(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
North Dakota to Arizona
Woodcraft Indian Trip to the Southwest of the American Museum of Natural History (1927)
Hayden Planetarium-Grace Peruvian Eclipse Expedition (1937)
Paricutin Expedition



Found in 9 Collections and/or Records:

Camping Among the Indians

Identifier: Film Collection no. 22
Scope and Contents Filmed during the AMNH-Woodcraft Indian Trip to the Southwest, 1927. The AMNH Woodcraft Indian trip was led by Ernest Thompson Seton, the author, and George Clyde Fisher (AMNH curator of visual instruction). The film depicts a variety of dances (the buffalo, hood, war, eagle, corn, deer and snowbird) performed by Indians of the Tesuque, Taos, Acoma and Santa Clara Pueblos. Fisher also filmed other activities of the local people during the trip, most notably an intertribal ceremony in Gallup,...
Dates: 1927

Clyde Fisher birds and flowers photographs

Identifier: PPC .F5778
Scope and Contents

Photographs of birds and flowers.

Dates: 1915-1934

Clyde Fisher Kazahkstan Eclipse photographs, and travel photographs from Scandinvia and USSR

Identifier: PPC .F574
Scope and Contents

Field photographs of Kazahkstan eclipse, and astronomy photographs from Estonia, Kazakstan, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Finland, and U.S.S.R.

Dates: 1936

Clyde Fisher Maine and Western trip travel photographs

Identifier: PPC .F573
Scope and Contents

Main and Western trip photographs including Woodcraft Indian Trip, 1927 with Ernest Seton, originally in albums, includes nature shots.

Dates: 1921-1927

Clyde Fisher Miscellaneous field photographs

Identifier: PPC .F572
Scope and Contents

Field photographs from all over the world, including Peruvian eclipse of 1937, North America, includes photos of Clyde Fisher's wife, Te Ata.

Dates: circa 1930s

Clyde Fisher Scandinavia photographs

Identifier: PPC .F577
Scope and Contents

Scandinavia travel photographs.

Dates: 1924-1930

Clyde Fisher Scrapbook photographs

Identifier: PPC .F575
Scope and Contents

Includes photographs of Bob Bartlett, and others from all over United States.

Dates: 1922-1932

Clyde Fisher trees and farming photographs

Identifier: PPC .F576
Scope and Contents

Photographs of trees and farming.

Dates: 1912-1931

Frederic A. Lucas collection of journals correspondence, and photographs

Identifier: PPC .L832
Scope and Contents

Journals, collected writings, correspondence, and photographs of F.A. Lucas. Some images used in museum publication in collection.

Dates: 1890-1920