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National History Day: Biographies of Scientists

Resources from the Science History Institute: Digital Collections, Museum collections, Archival collections, and the Othmer Library's collections.

About Scientists' Biographies

Biographical Information is data that details a person's life. It can be personal data like birth, death, marriage, nationality. Academic data like schools attended and degrees earned. Professional data like subject specialties, employers and patents.  

The first couple of things to focus on when looking for biographical information are dates, what years or time period did this person live or are they still living, and geography, what was their nationality and/or where did they spend most of their life. Sometimes these are the exact things you are looking for, in which case, you better hope that you have the most important fact correct: their NAME! Sometimes spelling can be off or middle names/initials absent so it is best to try the name a couple ways till you start getting hits. 

Photographs, Prints, and Paintings

We have many images of scientists in our Digital Collections - see some notable examples below. You can browse images with a search like "Portraits" or search for a scientist by name in the search box. You can download images directly from our Digital Collections in a variety of sizes and formats for free and use them to illustrate your NHD project!

Archives (unpublished papers and letters)

To search for archival collections in the Digital Collection go to https://digital.sciencehistory.org/ and enter a keyword to start. Keywords you may want to try for Chemists and Scientists are: their name and their employer. Once you have started your search you will see a list of results along with a box on the left with options to limit your search, the last box is Department, here you can choose to only view items from our archival collections. 

Archival collections are also cataloged in the library catalog at the collection level. You can search the catalog at http://othmerlib.sciencehistory.org/ by using a keyword and narrowing the search to Archives Collection.

Top Search Terms

Think About Search Words:

  • Search the Name of the Person.
  • Try searching their name as both author and subject.
  • Did they invent or discover something?
  • Try looking up the company they worked for or founded.

Library (published books)

We have a separate guide on how to search for biographical information on chemists, please view it here:

 https://guides.othmerlibrary.sciencehistory.org/biographical

Try these books:

Museum (artifacts and art)

To search for museum object collections in the Digital Collection go to https://digital.sciencehistory.org/ and enter a keyword to start. Keywords you may want to use for Chemists and Scientists are: their name and their employer. Once you have started your search you will see a list of results along with a box on the left with options to limit your search, the last box is Department, here you can choose to only view items from our Museum.