Science History Institute
Ronald Brashear is the Arnold Thackray Director of the Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in Philadelphia, PA. He received his BA (1982) and MS (1984) in Physics from the University of Louisville and studied for his PhD in History of Science at the Johns Hopkins University (1984-88). He left Hopkins in 1988 to join the staff of the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA and in 1991 became their first Curator of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. At the Huntington he worked on the papers of the Mount Wilson Observatory and Edwin Hubble, among others, curated two exhibits on the history of astronomy and one on the history of civil engineering, and published in the history of astronomical spectroscopy of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During this time he also became active in the History Division of the American Astronomical Society and served for a time as the Division’s Secretary-Treasurer. In 1998 he was named the Curator of Rare Books at the Dibner Library of History of Science and Technology of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) and in 2001 became Head of Special Collections of all the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. He supervised the Dibner Resident Scholar program at SIL, managed the annual Dibner Library Lecture series, and curated an exhibition on the transits of Venus at the National Museum of American History in 2004. In 2006 he joined CHF as the Director of the Othmer Library and began the task of developing the newly-organized library collections and bringing them to the attention of both the library and scholarly world. Shortly after starting at CHF he took over the small fellowship program and established it as the centerpiece of the new Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry by creating a centralized application process and increasing the number of fellowships to form a strong research community at CHF based on the independent research library model. In addition to his work at CHF, he has served as the Chair of the Board of the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science (2007-2013; now the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine), in 2013 became the Chair of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collection Libraries, and in 2017 became Chair of the History Division of the American Chemical Society.