Bashford Dean (October 28, 1867 – December 6, 1928) was an American zoologist, specializing in ichthyology, and at the same time an expert in medieval and modern armor. He is the only person to have held concurrent positions at the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he was Honorary Curator of Arms and Armor; the Metropolitan Museum purchased his collection of arms and armor after his death, which his friend Daniel Chester French commemorated with a plaque.
Dean was born on October 28, 1867 in New York City. He graduated in 1886 from the College of the City of New York, and in 1890 received his Ph.D from Columbia University, where he was an assistant for Professor John Strong Newberry and later became a professor of zoology. His studies with Newberry of the Devonian armored fishes eventually resulted in Dean's "Studies on fossil fishes (sharks, chimaeroids and arthrodires)", published in Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History and other articles on the Arthroleptid frog Astylosternus robustus and on the egg capsules of Chimaera.
For his volume, Bibliography of Fishes, Dean was awarded the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1921. He is also the author of Catalogue Of European Court Swords And Hunting Swords: Including the Ellis, De Dino and Reubell Collections.
Although Dean is best known for armor and ichthyology, he was also involved in architectural preservation. He and his brother in law, Alexander M. Welch restored the Dyckman House, their wives' ancestral home.
After undergoing surgery, he unexpectedly died on December 6, 1928, in Battle Creek, Michigan, missing, only the day before his death, the opening of the Hall of Fishes, his crowning work at the American Museum of Natural History. He was survived by his widow, Mary Alice (Dyckman) Dean. The Deans had no children.
Armor collection and studies
Dean's interest in armor began, according to his sister Harriet Martine Dean, at age six while visiting the collection of the estate of the late Carlton Gates (d. 1869), a family acquaintance whose holdings included Asian and Medieval arms and weaponry. In 1877, at age 10, he started his personal collection when he purchased two 16th century daggers from the collection of Henry Cogniat.
As his career in ichthyology progressed, his focus eventually shifted toward the subject of armor and by 1900 he had amassed a private collection of approximately 125 armory specimens. In 1904, Dean initiated the process of establishing the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Department of Arms and Armor, serving first as guest curator while organizing the collection of Duc de Dino, quickly progressing to the position of honorary curator in 1906 and finally to the position of founding curator on October 28, 1912, now working for the Met full-time.
During World War I, Dean was commissioned a Major in the Ordnance Corps, and worked on development of armor, especially of helmets.:n12 His work guided and informed helmet development in the US, and possibly in other countries, at least until the 1980s, although his preferred design was rejected in 1918:216 and c. 1937, as its resemblance to the German Stahlhelm was considered too close.:216 He was the author of Helmets and Body Armor in Modern Warfare.
In 1927, Dean retired from the Metropolitan Museum and embarked on the addition of an armor hall to his home at Wave Hill. Following his death, his friends and family completed construction of the armor hall at his home and installed his private collection there. The Metropolitan Museum later became home to about half of his armor collection of 800 items through an outright bequest and through purchases made possible by gifts by friends and trustees of the museum.
To celebrate the centennial of the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Armory collection, in 2012 the museum organized the special exhibition Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department.
- La Rocca, Donald (2012-10-28), "Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department", Sunday at the Met (video), New York, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, retrieved 2013-02-12,
As part of a special Sunday at the Met program held in conjunction with the exhibition Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department, Donald J. La Rocca explains the founding and history of the department.
- Dean, Bashford (1909). "Studies on fossil fishes (sharks, chimaeroids and arthrodires)" (PDF). Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History. 9 (5). Retrieved 2013-02-11.
The Devonian Sharks known generally as "Cladodonts" and technically as Cladoselachians, i.e., a particular group of Cladodontid sharks, have, during the past decade, figured prominently in studies on the morphology of fishes.
- Dean, Bashford (1916). Charles Rochester Eastman, ed. A Bibliography of Fishes. 1. New York, New York: The Museum. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
- "Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
- Dean, Bashford (1929). Catalogue of European Court Swords and Hunting Swords: Including the Ellis, De Dino, Riggs, and Reubell Collections (Spine title: Court Swords and Hunting Swords). Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
- "Bashford Dean Dies After Operation". The New York Times. 1928-12-08. p. 15. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
Noted Zoologist Was Also the Leading American Expert on Ancient Armor. A TIRELESS COLLECTOR Was Honored by Natural History and Art Museum--Tributes Follow Sudden Death. Won Elliot Medal. Gave of Own Means. Hall of Fishes Crowned Labor.
- Board of Trustees (1929-01-01). "In Memory of Bashford Dean" (PDF). Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 24 (1): 5. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
At a meeting of the Board of Trustees, held on December 17, 1928, the following memorial resolution upon the late Bashford Dean was adopted.
- Surrogate's Court, Westchester County, New York (1870). Van Pelt, Reuben W., ed. Cover of: In the matter of proving the last will and testament of Carlton Gates, deceased: Argument by In the matter of proving the last will and testament of Carlton Gates, deceased: Argument. New York, New York: William J. Read, Steam Job Printer. p. 8. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
...Carlton Gates, late of the Town of Yonkers, in said County, departed this life, in the said County, on the 2lst day of August, in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine...
- La Rocca, Donald J. (2014-03-04). "A Look at the Life of Bashford Dean". Now at the Met. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 2014-06-15. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
When the department was officially created on October 28, 1912, it was almost entirely due to the talent, scholarship, and tireless drive of Dr. Bashford Dean (1867–1928), the department's founding curator.
- La Rocca, Donald J. (2014-04-08). "Bashford Dean and Japanese Arms and Armor". Now at the Met. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 2014-06-15. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
Dean personally designed and installed the display of the collection at the Museum and wrote an accompanying catalogue, which was the most detailed English-language book on the subject at the time. It remains a valuable scholarly introduction to the material more than a century later.
- McGrath, Charles (2012-10-04). "Dressed to Kill, From Head to Toe — Met Show Recalls Bashford Dean, Armor Curator". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
In many ways the most outstanding piece of work on display here is Bashford Dean himself. Dean (1867-1928) was one of those tireless and eccentric polymaths that the 19th century turned out in such profusion.
- Dean, Bashford (1920). Helmets and Body Armor in Modern Warfare. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Publication of the Committee on Education. New Haven: Yale University Press. Open Library: OL7179363M. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
- Suciu, Peter (2011-11-30). "American experimental helmets from WWI". Military Trader. F+W. Archived from the original on 2014-07-09. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
While many people were instrumental in developing a series of helmets, one individual stood out, who guided the process in these early years: Dr. Bashford Dean. Thanks to Dr. Dean’s research and his efforts to chronicle the helmets, much is actually known about these American “experimentals.”
- Franklin, Dwight (27 August 1920). "Review: Helmets and Body Armor in Modern Warfare by Bashford Dean". Science. 52 (1339): 201–202. doi:10.1126/science.52.1339.201-a.
- "Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department — October 2, 2012–October 13, 2014". Exhibitions. Metropolitan Museum of Art. July 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
To mark the centennial of the Arms and Armor Department, this exhibition surveys the career of Dr. Bashford Dean (1867–1928), the department's founding curator.
- Shor, Elizabeth Nobel (1970–80). "Dean, Bashford". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 3. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 610–611. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9.