Schmitt, Waldo L. (Waldo Lasalle), 1887-1977. Search this
79.56 cu. ft. (6 record storage boxes) (121 document boxes) (2 half document boxes) (4 12x17 boxes) (60 3x5 boxes) (3 5x8 boxes) (2 film boxes) (oversize material)
Motion pictures (visual works)
The papers of Waldo LaSalle Schmitt provide comprehensive documentation of his professional career, 1907-1977. They also illustrate, to a lesser degree, his personal
life. Particularly well represented in the papers is material concerning Schmitt's carcinological research, his curatorial and administrative careers at the United States
National Museum (USNM), his career as a field worker and scientific expedition member, and his activities in scientific societies and professional organizations.
Schmitt was a prolific letter writer and a large part of his papers consists of correspondence written and received between 1907 and 1977. The correspondence reflects all
aspects of Schmitt's career, particularly expeditions and field work, the evolution of his duties at the USNM, carcinological research, and relations with the scientific community.
Also included are many letters with friends and family members concerning personal matters.
Records relating to Schmitt's activities in scientific societies, professional organizations, and social groups are found in his organizational files. They also include
files kept by Schmitt on government agencies, museums, colleges and universities, and research foundations. Included are records documenting Schmitt's tenure as President
of the Washington Academy of Sciences, his duties as a trustee of the Bear's Bluff Laboratories and the International Oceanographic Foundation, his application for the position
of Director of the California Academy of Sciences, his academic careers at George Washington University and the University of California, and his career as an instructor at
George Washington University.
Other records relating to Schmitt's service in professional organizations exist in separate series. These include files concerning his work on the editorial board for biological
manuscripts for the American Geophysical Union's Antarctic Research Series, records regarding his service on the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Polar Research,
and files reflecting his activities as a member of the Explorers Club and the Society of Systematic Zoology (SSZ). The SSZ files are of particular interest since they provide
information concerning the founding and early history of the Society and include records maintained by Schmitt during his tenure as the organization's first President.
Schmitt's fifty-two-year career as a field worker and scientific expedition member is extensively illustrated in the expedition files. The records include diaries, field
notes, station data, correspondence, manuscripts, reprints, publications, reports, newspaper clippings, financial records, photographs, notes, maps, and memorabilia collected
by Schmitt. Records concerning his underwater photography field work with Harry Pederson are contained in a separate series.
Aside from his correspondence, Schmitt's personal activities and outside interests are best illustrated by records concerning his ideas and plans for easing traffic problems
in Washington, D.C. Included is correspondence, newspaper articles by Schmitt, and hearing statements that outline his plans for a commuter railroad.
The papers include a large group of photographs, slides, movies, lantern slides, and tape recordings made and collected by Schmitt. Included are photographs of Schmitt,
scientific colleagues, and Smithsonian and USNM associates; early underwater photographs taken by William Harding Longley at Tortugas, Florida; slides, movies, lantern slides,
and tape recordings made on expeditions; and a tape recording of the "Remembrance to Waldo LaSalle Schmitt" held at the National Museum of Natural History in 1978.
The papers also include diaries and notebooks mostly concerning USNM business, but also containing entries made on expeditions; records dealing with the republication of
Schmitt's book Crustaceans; files on his research project "The American Commensal Crabs of the Family Pinnotheridae"; manuscripts, speeches, and publications of Schmitt;
biographical materials, compiled by Schmitt on his mentor, Mary Jane Rathbun; records, collected by Schmitt, on Robert A. Bartlett and the Bartlett Arctic Expeditions; a transcript
of an oral history interview of Schmitt; and awards, diplomas, and citations received by Schmitt.
Additional material in the Smithsonian Archives that relates to Schmitt can be found in the records of the Division of Marine Invertebrates, United States National Museum
(Record Units 233 and 235) and its successor, the Division of Crustacea, National Museum of Natural History (Record Unit 307), and the records of the Departments of Biology
and Zoology, United States National Museum (Record Units 143, 242, and 243).
Waldo LaSalle Schmitt (1887-1977) was born in Washington, D.C. He developed an early interest in natural history, studying the flora and fauna of the District of Columbia
and nearby Maryland. He received the B.S. degree from George Washington University in 1913; the M.A. degree from the University of California in 1916; and his Ph.D. from George
Washington University in 1922. In 1948, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Southern California.
Schmitt began his career in government service in 1907 as an Aide in Economic Botany for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He served in that position until 1910 when
he was appointed Scientific Aide in the Division of Marine Invertebrates of the United States National Museum (USNM). At USNM, he became acquainted with Mary Jane Rathbun
and began to develop his interest in the study of crustacea. From 1911 to 1914, Schmitt served on the staff of the United States Bureau of Fisheries as Scientific Assistant
and Naturalist aboard the Albatross during its cruises along the west coast of America and Alaska. Crustacean collections surveys made on the Albatross provided
the material for Schmitt's M.A. thesis, "The Marine Decapod Crustacea of California." In 1915, Schmitt returned to the United States National Museum as Assistant Curator in
the Division of Marine Invertebrates. From 1915 to 1920, he also served as part-time instructor of Zoology at George Washington University. In 1920, Schmitt was named Curator
of the Division of Marine Invertebrates and remained in that capacity until 1943 when he was appointed Head Curator of the Department of Biology. The Department of Biology
was split into the Departments of Zoology and Botany in 1947, with Schmitt as Head Curator of Zoology. Upon his retirement in 1957, Schmitt was named Honorary Research Associate
and continued his association with the Smithsonian Institution until his death on 5 August 1977.
Schmitt participated in numerous biological expeditions and field trips during his career. Under the auspices of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, he spent the summer
of 1918 studying the life history of the spiny lobster at the Scripps Institution, La Jolla, California. During the summers of 1924 and 1925, Schmitt was at the Carnegie Institution's
Marine Laboratory at Tortugas, Florida, surveying the crustacean fauna of the area, identifying crustaceans found in the stomachs of fishes, and taking underwater photographs.
He also participated in field work at Tortugas during the summers of 1930, 1931, and 1932. In 1925, Schmitt was awarded the Smithsonian's Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship
"for the study of the fauna of countries other than the United States." The scholarship enabled him to collect marine invertebrates along the east coast of South America from
August to December, 1925, and on the west coast from August 1926 to May 1927.
During the years 1933 to 1935, Schmitt was a member of three expeditions to the Galapagos Islands sponsored by G. Allan Hancock of Los Angeles, California. While on these
trips, Schmitt became acquainted with a group of utopian colonists on Florena Island in the Galapagos, who attracted considerable attention in the world press by their intrigues
and mysterious behavior. As a guest of G. Huntington Hartford, he explored and collected in the West Indies on the Smithsonian-Hartford West Indies Expedition of 1937. In
1938, Schmitt was chosen by the White House to accompany President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Naturalist on the Presidential Cruise to Clipperton, Cocos, and the Galapagos Islands.
In 1939, Schmitt was a member of the Hancock South America Expedition and he served as the Biologist in charge of field operations on the first United States Fish and Wildlife
Service Alaska King Crab Investigation in 1940. During 1941 and 1942, Schmitt spent time on special detail with the United States Navy investigating the possibility of establishing
a biological station in the Galapagos Islands. In 1943, he visited South America, under the auspices of the State Department, for the purpose of strengthening relations between
United States and Latin American scientists.
In 1955, the Smithsonian Institution began an association with J. Bruce Bredin of Wilmington, Delaware, that produced several scientific expeditions. In that year, Schmitt
headed the Smithsonian-Bredin Belgian Congo Expedition. From 1956 to 1960, Schmitt led Bredin sponsored expeditions to the Caribbean (1956, 1958, 1959), the Society Islands
(1957), and the Yucatan (1960). Sponsored by a grant from the Office of Naval Research, Schmitt spent the summers of 1961 and 1962 with Harry Pederson photographing the coral
reef fauna of the Bahama Islands. Schmitt's last expedition was in 1962-1963, when he served as a member of the Palmer Peninsula (Antarctica) Survey of the United States Antarctic
Research Program. During the survey, Schmitt collected over 29,000 specimens, which were added to the collections of the National Museum of Natural History. In recognition
of his contributions to the United States Antarctic Research Program, the Board of Geographic Names designated a 30 mile ice-covered series of outcrops at the base of the
Antarctic Peninsula, Schmitt Mesa.
Schmitt's primary field of zoological investigation was carcinology, with special emphasis on the decapod crustaceans (the order that includes crabs, lobsters, and shrimp).
His bibliography consists of more than seventy titles. A member of numerous professional organizations, Schmitt was active in the founding of the Society of Systematic Zoology
and served as president in 1948. He was also president of the Washington Academy of Sciences in 1947. Schmitt was a trustee of the Bear's Bluff Laboratories, the International
Oceanographic Foundation, and the Serological Museum of Rutgers University.
For additional biographical information on Waldo LaSalle Schmitt, see Richard E. Blackwelder, The Zest for Life, or Waldo Had a Pretty Good Run: The Life of Waldo LaSalle
Schmitt (Lawrence, Kansas: The Allen Press, Inc., 1979); Fenner A. Chace, Jr., "Waldo LaSalle Schmitt, 25 June 1887 - 5 August 1977," Crustaceana, 1978, vol. 34,
pt. 1, pp. 83-90; and John Sherwood, "Uncle Waldo Still Hears the Call of Crustaceans," The Washington Star, January 11, 1977.
June 25, 1887 -- Born in Washington, D.C.
1907-1910 -- Aide in Economic Botany, United States Department of Agriculture
1910 -- Scientific Aide, Division of Marine Invertebrates, United States National Museum (February-September)
1911 -- Scientific Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Expedition to Lower California aboard the Albatross (February-May)
1911 -- Scientific Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Chignik (Alaska) Biological Survey aboard the Albatross and the Star of Alaska (May-September)
1912-1914 -- Scientific Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Survey of San Francisco Bay aboard the Albatross (various trips)
1913 -- Bachelor of Science, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
1914 -- Naturalist in charge of biological activities, Bureau of Fisheries Halibut Survey of Washington and Oregon aboard the Albatross (April-May, August-September)
1914 -- Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Olympia Oyster Beds Survey (June-August)
1914 -- Married Alvina Stumm (November 19)
1915-1920 -- Assistant Curator, Division of Marine Invertebrates, USNM
1915-1920 -- Instructor in Zoology, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
1916 -- Master of Arts, University of California, Berkeley
1918 -- Bureau of Fisheries Spiny Lobster Investigations aboard the Albacore out of La Jolla, California (June-August)
1920-1943 -- Curator, Division of Marine Invertebrates, USNM
1921 -- The Marine Decapod Crustacea of California..., University of California Publications in Zoology, volume 23
1922 -- Ph.D., George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
1924 -- Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)
1925 -- Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)
1925 -- Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship Expedition to the East Coast of South America (August-December)
1926-1927 -- Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship Expedition to the West Coast of South America, including the Falkland Islands, Deception Island, and Juan Fernandez Islands (August 1926-May 1927)
1930 -- Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)