Graham Bell Fairchild (1906-1994), was born in Washington, D.C. In his youth, Fairchild was introduced to tropical biology while visiting Barro Colorado Island (BCI) research station of the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA) with his father, David Grandison Fairchild. He received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in entomology from Harvard University where he studied under William Morton Wheeler, Joseph Charles Bequaert, and Thomas Barbour. Before and during his years at Harvard he also worked at the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) studying the collections.
Fairchild began his career as an entomologist stationed in Brazil with the Yellow Fever Commission of the Rockefeller Foundation, from 1935 to 1937. From 1938 to 1971, he worked as an Entomologist at Gorgas Memorial Laboratory in Panama City, Panama, and from 1958 to 1971 he served as Assistant Director. At Gorgas his research focused on the taxonomy of medically important insects, especially Tabanidae and Psychodidae. During his years in Panama, he observed the development of the BCI research station from a small university consortium to Smithsonian aegis as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).
The Canal Zone Biological Area was established in 1923 on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in the Panama Canal as a reserve for scientific study of the tropics. Originally designed as a consortium of universities and government agencies by Thomas Barbour, William Morton Wheeler, James Zetek, and others, CZBA was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1946 and in 1966 was renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.