Frederick Olmsted Biography

Frederick Olmsted




A collateral relative of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Olmsted studied science at Stanford and art at the California School of Fine Arts, where he met and married Barbara Greene. In 1937, the couple visited fellow student Helen Phillips in Paris and spent time working at Atelier 17 with S.W. Hayter, whom Phillips later married.

Olmsted worked in the WPA, assisting John Langley Howard and George Harris in the Coit Tower, creating his own mural on a three-foot panel above the main entrance. He also assisted Diego Rivera with his mural at the Art Institute in San Francisco. Olmsted created numerous murals and sculptures for public works in San Francisco, including the surreal Theory and Science mural at San Francisco City College. He taught art for a while at Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

After Barbara and he divorced, he continued to work as a sculptor, moving to Cleveland where he designed medical equipment for the Cleveland Clinic. It was there he developed a machine to shock the diseased heart of one of his dogs, a prototype for today's pacemaker. Olmsted then worked at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, designing equipment and machinery for the Oceanographic Institute.