Joseph Henry Elected to National Institute for the Promotion of Science

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Joseph Henry (1797-1878), physicist and professor at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), is elected a corresponding member of the National Institution (later Institute) for the Promotion of Science, established in May 1840 in Washington, D.C. The Institute's immediate goals were to establish a museum for the collections of the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) and to acquire the James Smithson (c. 1765-1829) bequest left to the United States for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." The Institute's ultimate ambition was to be nationally recognized as an authority on scientific matters. Although it lasted twenty years, the Institute struggled to achieve its goals from the beginning.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • National Institute for the Promotion of Science


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • In 1846, Joseph Henry is appointed the first Secretary of the newly founded Smithsonian Institution.
  • Image is National Institute's Catalogue of "Extraordinary Curiosities," negative number 2005-414.
  • Reingold, Nathan, ed. The Papers of Joseph Henry, The Princeton Years, January 1838 - December 1840, vol. 4. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979, pp. 429-30.

Contact information

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


August 22, 1840


  • American science
  • Science
  • Societies
  • Science--Societies, etc

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