Founding of the Smithsonian Institution

James Smithson was the founding donor for the Smithsonian Institution.  He was an Englishman born in 1765 illegitimately to Hugh Smithson and Elizabeth Hungerford Keate Macie in Paris where his mother fled to hide the pregnancy.  He never married and he lived a nomadic life where he traveled throughout Europe.  He was interested in a lot of things and he studied a wide range of natural phenomena. 

In his will, he had a clause that if his nephew had no children then his fortune would be left to the United States to create the Smithsonian Institution in Washington for the advancement of knowledge in men.  In his life, he had never stepped foot in the United States.  He died in 1829.  In 1835, his nephew passed away and the United States was notified of the bequest.  President Andrew Jackson and Congress accepted the bequest on July 1, 1836 and in September 1838, his legacy was delivered to the U.S. mint in Philadelphia.  The gift was more than $500,000 once it was exchanged for U.S. currency.  President James K. Polk signed the Act of Congress on August 10, 1846 establishing the Smithsonian Institution. 

Currently, the Smithsonian is one of the largest museum, education, and research complexes in the world with 19 museums, the National zoo, and 9 research facilities. 

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution was founded on the funds from James Smithson to create “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Because of this, the Smithsonian Institution has created a multitude of things to help increase knowledge. The following are some items about James Smithson, the Smithsonian Institution, and items created by the Smithsonian Institution.





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