Smithsonian Institution

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James Smithson (1765-1829), a British scientist, left his estate to the United States to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The Smithsonian Institution was officially established by legislation signed by President James K. Polk on August 10, 1846, as a trust to be administered by a Board of Regents and a Secretary of the Smithsonian. Since its founding, the Smithsonian has become the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, the National Zoo and nine research facilities. The Secretary of the Smithsonian, appointed by the Board of Regents, is the Institution's chief executive officer. Secretaries have included Joseph Henry, 1846-1878; Spencer F. Baird, 1878-1887; Samuel P. Langley, 1887-1906; Charles D. Walcott, 1907-1927; Charles G. Abbot, 1928-1944; Alexander Wetmore, 1944-1952; Leonard Carmichael, 1953-1964; S. Dillon Ripley, 1964-1984; Robert McCormick Adams, 1984-1994; Ira Michael Heyman, 1994-2000; Lawrence M. Small, 2000-2007; Cristián Samper, Acting Secretary, 2007-2008; and G. Wayne Clough, 2008 - .


SIA AH00002 [Agency History]





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