Joseph Henry Demonstrates Enhanced Electromagnet

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Joseph Henry becomes the first to construct an electromagnet formed by tightly wrapping multiple coils of an insulated conducting wire around an iron bar. He demonstrates it at a regular meeting of the Albany Institute on April 15, 1830. Henry would later remark that it "possessed magnetic power superior to that of any before known." In 1846, Henry would become the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Albany Institute


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • This magnet was based on principles discussed in the paper Henry presented to the Albany Institute on October 10, 1827, which appears at An illustrated discussion of Henry's work on this electromagnet and others appears at
  • Moyer, Albert. Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, pp. 62-63.
  • Scientific Writings of Joseph Henry. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 30. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1887, pp. 3-7.
  • Reingold, Nathan, ed. The Papers of Joseph Henry, The Albany Years, December 1797 - October 1832, vol. 1. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1972, p. 217.
  • "Communication from Prof. Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Relative to a Publication by Prof. Morse," in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution...for the Year 1857. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1858, p. 109.

Contact information

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


April 15, 1829


  • Electric apparatus and appliances
  • Magnetic induction
  • Electricity
  • Inventors
  • Inventions
  • Electromagnets
  • Magnetism
  • Electromagnetism
  • Electromagnet


Albany (N.Y.)

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