George Brown Goode (1851-1896), ichthyologist and museum administrator, was born in New Albany, Indiana. His childhood was spent in Anenia, New York, where he developed a strong interest in natural history. He entered Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut, in 1866, and was graduated in 1870. In 1870, Goode was admitted to Harvard University for a year of post-graduate study under Louis Agassiz. The following year he received an invitation from Wesleyan to undertake the arrangement and direction of the newly established Judd Museum of Natural History. He retained his official connection with Wesleyan until 1877.
In 1872, Goode met Spencer F. Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and United States Fish Commissioner. Baird invited him to work as a volunteer collector for the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (USCFF). Goode accepted and became Baird's chief pupil and assistant. For the next several years, Goode spent his summers collecting fishes off the Atlantic coasts of Long Island, Florida, and Bermuda. In 1873, he was appointed Assistant Curator in the United States National Museum (USNM), a position he retained until 1877 when his title was changed to Curator. In 1881, when the new USNM building was completed, Goode was promoted to Assistant Director. On January 12, 1887, Goode was appointed Assistant Secretary in charge of the USNM and he remained the chief administrative officer of the Museum until his death in 1896.
Goode's primary scientific interest was ichthyology, and he published both scientific and popular works on fish and fisheries. After receiving an appointment at the USNM, Goode continued to work for the USCFF in various capacities. He acted as statistical expert for the Halifax Fishery Arbitration Commission, 1877-1878; chief of the Fisheries Division of the Tenth Census, 1879-1880; and United States Commissioner at the Fisheries Exhibitions in Berlin,1880, and in London, 1883. After the death of Spencer F. Baird in 1887, Goode assumed the position of Fish Commissioner until January, 1888.
Goode has been described as the father of the modern American museum. Through his administration of the USNM and writings on the subject, Goode served as a strong advocate of the role of museums in the education of the general public. Shortly after he was appointed Assistant Director in 1881, Goode issued Circular No. 1 of the National Museum, which set forth a comprehensive scheme of organization for the museum. He oversaw a period of tremendous growth at the USNM. Under his direction museum staff grew from thirteen to over 200 and specimens increased from two hundred thousand to over three million. Goode published several articles geared toward the museum professional including "Museum History and Museums of History," 1888; "Museums of the Future," 1890; and "Principles of Museum Administration," 1895.
A logical extension of Goode's talents was his service at many of the international expositions held during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In fact, Goode's work designing the Smithsonian exhibits at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 helped to plant the ideas that would blossom in his organization of the USNM in the early 1880s. Goode is generally credited with applying museum theories to expositions and helping to " . . . widen their scope from the merely commercial and industrial to the educational and scientific."
Goode was also a historian, bibliographer, and genealogist. He studied the history of American science and produced several papers on the subject. These included "The Beginnings of Natural History in America," 1886; "The Beginnings of American Science: The Third Century," 1888; and "The Origin of the National Scientific and Educational Institutions of the United States," 1890. He also planned, edited, and wrote several chapters of the posthumously published "The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896: The History of Its First Half Century, 1897." He compiled bibliographies of several prominent naturalists, and his "Virginia Cousins," 1887, was considered a model genealogy.
In addition to the standard biographical memoirs, an excellent discussion of Goode and his work is found in Edward P. Alexander's "Museum Masters," 1984.