Groundbreaking Ceremony for Museum of History and Technology, 1958, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Image no. SIA_000095_B57_F10_001.

Leonard Carmichael, Seventh Secretary of the Smithsonian

Dr. Leonard Carmichael led the Smithsonian Institution through many changes during his tenure as the seventh Secretary of the Smithsonian. He presided over new museums and facility openings, special acquisitions, and exciting exhibitions. Because Carmichael was hired from outside of the Smithsonian, he brought a new perspective, his academic background, and skills to thrust the Institution into the modern age. 

In 1953, the Smithsonian Institution’s seventh Secretary was sworn into office. Dr. Leonard Carmichael, a psychologist, served from 1953–1964 and was the first Secretary to be hired from outside of the Institution.  

Portrait of Carmichael. He is wearing a suit with a white handkerchief sticking out of the front poc

Some historians regard Carmichael as the Secretary responsible for leading the Smithsonian into the modern age, raising funds to modernize outdated exhibitions and personally interviewing and hiring a group of young, talented researchers. During his time as Secretary, the Smithsonian created the National Portrait Gallery, expanded the Natural History Building, and updated and moved the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the observatory was the only laboratory in the United States able to track the Soviet’s Sputnik satellite in 1957. Additionally, Carmichael pushed to update and improve the National Zoological Park, and the Friends of the National Zoo was created to aid in the future of the Zoo during his time as Secretary.  

Four men and two women are pictured. Carmichael holds up his right hand while a woman holds a book o

Leaning on his experience in higher education, Carmichael was able to increase funding to pursue changes necessary to propel the Smithsonian into the future and attract larger audiences from around the world.  

Below is a list of some of the acquisitions and dedications that occurred during Secretary Carmichael’s tenure. 

  • One of the Institution’s most famous acquisitions, the Hope Diamond, was donated to the Smithsonian by Harry Winston. The stone was insured and shipped through the United States Postal Service in 1958.  

Two men and one woman hold up a necklace with a large diamond at the center. The man in the middle i

  • The Jubilee Diamond was presented to the National Museum of Natural History in 1961 as an eight-month loan from Paul-Louis Weiller, an industrialist and philanthropist. 

Four men stand near a shovel. Carmichael is holding the shovel with both hands. Another man has one

Two men and one woman stand on an elevated platform. One man is speaking at a podium labeled Smithso

Related Resources

Produced by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For copyright questions, please see the Terms of Use.