Gibbs-Smith, Charles Harvard 1909 - 1981

English; British

(1909-1981), aviation historian

Gibbs-Smith was born in Teddington on the 22nd March 1909 and attended Westminster School followed by Harvard University where he did an MA in 1932. After graduating he became an Assistant Keeper at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he was responsible for the photographic collections and in 1939 he arranged the important Photographic Centenary Exhibition.

During the Second World War Gibbs-Smith was seconded to the Ministry of Information, becoming the Director of the Photographic Division in 1945. He was also an instructor in aircraft recognition for the Royal Observer Corps, which sparked his interest in aviation, especially the history. When he returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum he became Keeper of the Department of Public Relations in 1947. He wrote on many subjects and his work on the Danish Exhibition in 1948 led the Danish Government to appoint him to the order of the Dannebrog.

He researched aeronautical history and wrote a number of books for the Science Museum. In 1962 the Royal Aeronautical Society recognised his work with the award of an Honorary Companionship. After retiring from the Victoria and Albert Museum he accepted a research fellowship with the Science Museum in 1976. With his international reputation, the Smithsonian Institution appointed him as the first Lindbergh Professor of Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington in 1978.

Gibbs-Smith's health declined upon his return to England after a year in the United States and he died on the 3rd December 1981, aged 72.