Joseph Henry Presents His First Paper on Electromagnetism

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Joseph Henry presents a paper to the Albany Institute describing the benefits of an electromagnet recently created by English experimenter William Sturgeon. Henry discusses how further modifications to the magnet will allow for the use of smaller batteries and will show the effect of the earth's magnetic field. Sturgeon's electromagnet requires only a modest galvanic battery to create significant power, whereas prior to this, demonstrating electrical current required equipment too cumbersome and delicate to be practical for teaching or demonstration. Henry's paper is published in the first volume of Albany Institute's Transactions, issued in 1830. In 1846, Henry would become the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Sturgeon, William 1783-1850
  • Albany Institute


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Diagrams appear within the paper, which can be found at
  • Reingold, Nathan, ed. The Papers of Joseph Henry, The Princeton Years, November 1832 - December 1835, vol. 2. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975, p. 201.
  • Moyer, Albert. Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, pp. 59-60.
  • Scientific Writings of Joseph Henry. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 30. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1887, pp. 3-7.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


October 20, 1827


  • Electric apparatus and appliances
  • Magnetic induction
  • Electricity
  • Electromagnets
  • Magnetism
  • Magnetic fields
  • Teaching
  • Electromagnetism
  • Electromagnet


Albany (N.Y.)

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