Robert McCormick Adams (1926-2018),archaeologist and anthropologist, served as the ninth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1984 to 1994. Adams received the bachelors of philosophy from University of Chicago in 1947, the masters in 1952 and the Ph.D. in 1956. Adams' research focused on field studies in the history of irrigation and urban settlement, primarily in the Middle East, but also Mesoamerica. He served on the faculty of the University of Chicago and Oriental Institute from 1955 to 1984, serving as director of the Oriental Institute from 1962 to 1968, and as Provost of the University from 1982 to 1984.
At the Smithsonian, Adams initiated new programs to ensure cultural diversity, establishing a Cultural Education Committee in 1986. He oversaw acquisition of the National Museum of the American Indian and development of the National Postal Museum from the National Philatelic Collection. Adams oversaw construction of the Quadrangle, a complex housing the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the International Center. He also sought to reinvigorate research at the Institution, as well as incorporate new technologies into education, research, and museum programs. The National Science Resources Center was created to improve the teaching of pre-college science and mathematics.
Adams faced several challenges head-on, raising awareness of the deteriorating infrastructure of the Smithsonian and initiating a renovation program for its historic structures. When the "culture wars" erupted at the Smithsonian in the 1990s, with criticisms of exhibits including The West as America, an exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Science in American Life, at the National Museum of American History, and a script developed at the National Air and Space Museum for an exhibit on the Enola Gay, Adams oversaw a thoughtful national discussion of the issues.
Upon his retirement from the Smithsonian in 1994, Adams was appointed an adjunct professor at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) where he continued anthropological research and publication. Over the course of his career Adams explored the importance of social interaction and cultural ecology in the evolution of civilizations and how cultural ecology helps explain the rise of civilizations and how cultures affect each other.