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Monday, March 11, 2013

Doris Mable Cochran: Smithsonian Herpetologist

Doris Cochran examining a snake, 1954
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. 96-952
Who says diamonds are a girl’s best friend? What about reptiles?

Doris Mable Cochran (1898-1968) was a herpetologist at the United States National Museum (now known as the National Museum of Natural History). This was only natural since she grew up around the Museum watching her mother work as a scientific illustrator. Cochran began her Smithsonian career as an aid in the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians in 1918 and eventually became the Curator in Charge. Though her dissertation for her doctorate from the University of Maryland looked at blue crab myology, Cochran’s research mostly focused on South American frogs. Not only did she examine these specimens, but being quite the artist herself, she created beautiful drawings of her subjects. In her fifty years at the Smithsonian, Cochran traveled to South America, Central America, and the West Indies and published numerous articles and books on herpetology. In her spare time, she was a talented weaver, brushing her Persian cats and spinning their fur into beautiful earth-toned yarn! Cochran was the second person elected as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and retired from the Smithsonian in 1968.

To learn more about Doris Cochran and other Smithsonian women during women’s history month, check out the Collections Search Center.

Courtney Bellizzi, Smithsonian Institution Archives

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