Ichthyology has been studied at Harvard since long before the founding of the Museum of Comparative Zoology in 1859. By the late 1700s, William Dandridge Peck, the first professor of Natural History at Harvard, had collected and published on New England fishes. Peck's specimens were skinned, dried and glued to paper sheets; some are still in the MCZ collection to this day.
After the MCZ was founded the fish collection grew rapidly and has had a long history of active ichthyological research.
- Agassiz Period (1859-1874)
- Garman Period (1874-1928)
Agassiz Period (1859-1874)
Many of the types date back to the "Agassiz Period" (1859-1874) when fishes were sent from all over the world by hundreds of individuals and from two major expeditions, the Thayer Expedition to Brazil and the Hassler Expedition that circumnavigated South America. Other important accessions involving type material gathered during the Agassiz Period include: Nicholas Pike fishes from Mauritius; Andrew Garrett fishes from the South Pacific; types of Eastern European and Central Asian fishes from the Imperial Museum of St. Petersburg; almost all of Felipe Poey's types of Cuban Fishes; Indian freshwater fishes from Rev. M.M. Carleton and Sir Francis Day; and representatives of Klunzinger's fishes from the Red Sea.