Naturalist, ichthyologist (person who studies fish) and ornithologist (person who studies birds), Spencer F. Baird (1823-1887) was named the first curator of the Smithsonian Institute in 1850, four years after Pres. James K. Polk signed the legislation that established the world-renowned research organization on Aug. 10, 1846. Baird became the second Smithsonian Secretary in 1878, a position he filled until his death nine years later.
The Baird’s Beaked Whale (Berardius bairdii) is named for the former curator and secretary. Also called the Giant Bottlenose Whale, the Baird’s Beaked Whale is the largest of all the beaked whales reaching up to 40 feet (13 m) and 26,000 pounds (12,000 kg).