Date of Award

12-14-2015

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Allison Marsh

Abstract

This thesis analyzes the influence the Smithsonian Institution had over the development of oology as a science from the mid-19th to the early 20th century. The Smithsonian promoted oology, or the study of bird eggs, through publications and collections of eggs in the mid-19th century, and the science enjoyed a brief period of proliferation and approval. In the end, however, the popularity of egg collecting as a hobby, in-fighting between oologists and ornithologists over the validity of oology as a science, and bird conservation groups opposed to collecting eggs, all conspired to halt oology’s professionalization, and ultimately led to the downfall of the science, which is no longer practiced today. Museums still house these collections, and their history matters, particularly when the specimens are used to help make scientific discoveries that drive policy, as was the case with the 1972 ban of DDT. The thesis speaks to broader conversations in the history of science and public history about why scientific collections and their histories matter today.

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