Thomas Dale Stewart (1901-1997), a physical anthropologist in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), specialized in diagnostic characteristics of the human skeleton. Born in 1901 in Delta, Pennsylvania, Stewart came to Washington, D.C., in 1924 to attend college. He received a B.A. from George Washington University in 1927 and an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1931. During his undergraduate years, he worked as a temporary aide to Ales Hrdlicka in the Division of Physical Anthropology of the United States National Museum (USNM), and received a permanent appointment in 1927. Upon completion of medical school, he was advanced to Assistant Curator of Physical Anthropology in 1931, to Associate Curator in 1939, and to Curator in 1942. During these years his research focused on anthropometric studies of Eskimos and American Indians, and on excavations of Potomac Tidewater ossuaries. After Hrdlicka's retirement in 1942, Stewart became Editor of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology for five years. During World War II, he was a visiting professor of anatomy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Stewart worked with the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service after the Korean War to establish criteria for identifying the age and race of skeletal remains of soldiers.
In 1961 Stewart was appointed Head Curator of the Department of Anthropology and in 1963 Director of the National Museum of Natural History. During his tenure as Director, Stewart guided planning for the new wings to the Natural History Building (NHB), oversaw the merger of the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) with the Department of Anthropology, and encouraged formation of a Senate of Scientists. In 1964 he served concurrently as Acting Assistant Secretary for Science. He retired from administration in 1966, and was appointed Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Anthropology. When he retired from federal service in 1971, he was appointed Anthropologist Emeritus.
Stewart achieved recognition as an authority on diagnostic skeletal characteristics for modern and prehistoric humans. During the years 1957-1962 he conducted analyses at the Iraq Museum of the newly excavated Neanderthal skeletons from Shanidar Cave. In 1985-1986, he oversaw the reconstruction of the Wadi Kubbaniya skeleton from Egypt. He performed extensive work in forensic anthropology for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In addition to his anthropological duties, he served as physician to Smithsonian staff in medical emergencies.