Richard Rathbun (1852-1918) was born in Buffalo, New York. He received his early education in the public schools of Buffalo and after graduation worked in his father's stone quarry business. Rathbun developed an early interest in the geology and paleontology of western New York, and by 1870 had deposited large collections of fossils in the Buffalo Society of Natural History. In 1871, Rathbun entered Cornell University on the advice of the distinguished Brazilian explorer, Charles F. Hartt. He left Cornell in 1873 to study the fossil collections at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. In 1874, he was appointed assistant in zoology in the Boston Society of Natural History. While serving in this position, Rathbun also worked as a volunteer assistant with the United States Fish Commission (USFC). In 1875, he became a geologist with the Geological Commission of Brazil, under the direction of Hartt. He remained in Brazil until 1878, when he returned to the United States to accept the position of scientific assistant with the USFC. Rathbun remained on the staff of the USFC until 1896. His association with the Smithsonian Institution and United States National Museum began in 1881, when he was made honorary curator of the Department of Marine Invertebrates, a position he held until 1914. In 1897, Rathbun accepted the position of assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in charge of Office and Exchanges. In 1898, Rathbun's duties were expanded to include certain aspects of museum administration, and in 1901 his title was changed to Assistant secretary, in charge of the National Museum, a position he held until his death in 1918.
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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