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Patricia Peck Gossel (1944 — June 12, 2004) was an American science historian and curator, who chaired the Science, Medicine and Society Division at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Patricia Peck Gossel
BornInglewood, California
OccupationScience historian

Early life and educationEdit

Patricia Louise Peck was born during World War II in Inglewood, California, the daughter of Elsa G. Erickson Peck and Harold G. Peck.[1] She grew up in Murdo, South Dakota, where her father owned an elevator company.[2] Peck attended Augustana College as an undergraduate, then earned a master's degree in bacteriology from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. In 1988 she completed her doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University, with a dissertation on "The Emergence of American Bacteriology, 1875-1900."[3]


Gossel had work experiences as an electron microscopist and as a clinical bacteriologist in the 1970s, and taught at Rochester Institute of Technology in the mid-1980s. At the Smithsonian, she was a major contributor to organizing the permanent exhibit, "Science in American Life,"[4] and she founded the museum's History of Biology collection.[3] She laid the initial groundwork for the 2005 exhibit "Whatever Happened to Polio?", which was realized after Gossel's death, timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Salk vaccine.[5] She also curated a collection of items related to the history and development of oral contraceptives.[6]

Scholarly publications by Gossel included "Pasteur, Koch and American Bacteriology" (2000),[7] "A Need for Standard Methods: The Case of American Bacteriology" (1992),[8] and "Packaging the Pill" (1999).[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Gossel was married once, in 1966,[1] and divorced. She died from cancer in Bethesda, Maryland in 2004, aged 60 years.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Bride-Elect" Daily Republic (November 29, 1965): 5. via 
  2. ^ "Obituaries: Harold G. Peck" Rapid City Journal (March 6, 2001).
  3. ^ a b c "Obituaries: Patricia Peck Gossel, Museum Curator" Washington Post (June 24, 2004): B06.
  4. ^ "In Memoriam: Patricia Peck Gossel" History of Science Society Newsletter 33(4)(October 2004): 4.
  5. ^ Brien Williams, review of "Whatever Happened to Polio?" Public Historian 28(1)(Winter 2006): 155-159.
  6. ^ Amanda Chau, "A Quick Tour of the Smithsonian's Collection of Oral Contraceptives" The Atlantic (February 17, 2012).
  7. ^ Patricia Peck Gossel, "Pasteur, Koch and American Bacteriology" History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 22(1)(2000):81 - 100.
  8. ^ Patricia Peck Gossel, "A Need for Standard Methods: The Case for American Bacteriology" in Adele E. Clarke and Joan H. Fujimura, eds., The Right Tools for the Job: At Work in Twentieth-Century Life Sciences (Princeton University Press 2014): 287-311. ISBN 9781400863136
  9. ^ Patricia Peck Gossel, "Packaging the Pill" in Robert Bud, Bernard S. Finn, and Helmuth Trischler, eds.,Manifesting Medicine: Bodies and Machines (Taylor & Francis 1999): 105-121. ISBN 9789057024085

External linksEdit