Frederick W. True

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Frederick William True
Frederick William True.jpeg
Born(1858-07-08)July 8, 1858
DiedJune 25, 1914(1914-06-25) (aged 55)
NationalityUnited States
Known forTrue's beaked whale
Scientific career
InstitutionsUnited States National Museum

Frederick William True (July 8, 1858 – June 25, 1914) was an American biologist, the first head curator of biology (1897–1911) at the United States National Museum, now part of the Smithsonian Institution.[1]


He was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1858. He received a B.S. from the University of New York in 1878, when he entered the U.S. government service.[2] He was expert special agent on fisheries for the 10th census, 1879.[2] In 1881, True started working for the U.S. National Museum as a clerk.[3] That year he became librarian and acting curator of mammals, which positions he filled until 1883. True was curator of mammals at the U.S. National Museum (1883-1909), curator of comparative anatomy (1885-1890), executive curator (1894-1897), head curator of biology (1897-1911) and assistant secretary in charge of the library and international exchange service (1911-1914).[1] He was appointed to the board of the American Philosophical Society on March 2, 1900.[4]

He started his career studying invertebrates,[1] but his poor eyesight obligated him to give up studies with the microscope,[3] and he turned to studies of cetaceans and their relatives.[1] True's beaked whale,[5] True's vole and True's shrew mole were named by him, and have vernacular names in his honor.


  • "Note on the occurrence of an armadillo of the genus Xenurus in Honduras"[6]
  • Review of the Family of Delphinidae
  • Whalebone Whales of the Western North Atlantic (1904)
  • Observations on Living White Whales (1911)


He married Louis Elvina Prentiss in 1887, and at his death two of their children were living.[3] He was the son of Methodist clergyman and writer Charles Kittredge True. His brother Alfred Charles True was a noted agricultural educationist.


  1. ^ a b c d "Frederick William True Papers". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "True, Frederick William" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  3. ^ a b c Alexander Wetmore (1936). "True, Frederick William". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  4. ^ Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society held at Philadelphia for promoting useful knowledge, Volumes 39-40, American Philosophical Society, The Society, 1900.
  5. ^ "True's Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon mirus)". NOAA Fisheries Service. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  6. ^ "Note on the occurrence of an armadillo of the genus Xenurus in Honduras". Proceedings of the United States National Museum. United States National Museum. 18 (1069): 345–347. 1896. Retrieved April 21, 2019.