Dr. F. Robert van der Linden is the Curator of Air Transportation and Special Purpose Aircraft and a supervisory curator in the Aeronautics Department. He served two four-year terms as department chair, from 2007 until 2015. He is the responsible aeronautics curator for the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall and served as the co-lead curator for that exhibit’s latest iteration. He is also the lead curator for the award-winning America by Air exhibit in the Hall of Air Transportation.
In 1991, the University of Washington published his first book entitled The Boeing 247: The First Modern Airliner. In 1992, he contributed three airline industry articles for the Encyclopedia of American Biography: Aviation, and in 1995 produced a chapter on the creation of the U.S. airline industry that was published in From Airships to Airbus: The History of Civil and Commercial Aviation, Volume 2 — Pioneers and Operations. In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the first solo flight across the Atlantic, he co-authored Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis with Dominick A. Pisano for Harry N. Abrams, Inc. In 2002, the University Press of Kentucky published his book Airlines and Air Mail: The Post Office and the Birth of the Commercial Aviation Industry. He co-authored 100 Years of Flight: A Chronicle of Aerospace History, 1903-2003, in 2003. In 2006, he co-authored Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1, and edited The Best of the National Air and Space Museum. In 2011, he completed a revised version of an earlier work entitled The Nation’s Hangar: Aircraft Treasures of the Smithsonian and, in 2016, edited a collection of essays entitled Milestones of Flight: The Epic of Aviation with the National Air and Space Museum. Most recently, he contributed a chapter in Smithsonian Contributions to Museum Conservation no. 9, “Aluminum: History, Technology, and Conservation.”
Dr. van der Linden is a native of Washington, DC. He holds a BA degree in History from the University of Denver, and an MA and PhD in Modern American, Business, and Military History from The George Washington University. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society, and the Society for the History of Technology. He has been with the Smithsonian since 1975, starting as a volunteer before his hiring in 1977. Dr. van der Linden and his wife Sue reside in Washington, DC with their daughter Rachael.
From the moment the Wright Brothers first took flight in 1903 to the modern-day reliance on stealth aircraft and drones, there have been significant advances made in aviation. Milestones of Flight celebrates each era of advancements by showcasing the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's world-class aircraft collection.