Joseph Henry's First European Tour

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Joseph Henry visits England, France, Belgium, Holland, and Scotland, where he meets with European scientists and visits learned societies, laboratories, industrial facilities, and other sites of scientific interest. In London, Henry undertakes experimental work with British scientists Charles Wheatstone, Michael Faraday, and John Daniell, and attends a lecture by physicist William Sturgeon. In Paris, he acquires scientific instruments for teaching and research, attends a meeting of the Academie des sciences, and meets Swiss physicist Auguste-Arthur de la Rive. In Edinburgh he visits the estate of Sir David Brewster, a distinguished researcher in the field of optics. At the conclusion of his tour, Henry returns to Liverpool where he participates in a week long meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. There he gives a paper on static-electric lateral discharge and makes a presentation on U.S. canal and railway systems. The establishment of personal and professional relationships with European colleagues would benefit Henry as a scientist and later as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, which was founded in 1846.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Sturgeon, William 1783-1850
  • Daniell, J. Frederic (John Frederic) 1790-1845
  • Wheatstone, Charles Sir 1802-1875
  • Faraday, Michael 1791-1867
  • La Rive, Auguste de 1801-1873
  • Brewster, David Sir 1781-1868
  • British Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Académie des sciences (France)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Reingold, Nathan, ed. The Papers of Joseph Henry, The Princeton Years, January 1836 - December 1837, vol. 3. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979, pp. 171-513.
  • Moyer, Albert. Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, pp. 201-230.

Contact information

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


March 14-October 2, 1837


  • Description and travel
  • Lectures and lecturing
  • Travel--Europe


  • Great Britain
  • Belgium
  • Europe
  • Scotland
  • France

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