Joseph Henry Meets with Dudley Observatory Trustees

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Joseph Henry travels to Albany, New York, where the Dudley Observatory had been established in 1856. As a member of an advisory body of the observatory known as the Scientific Council, Henry must help resolve a conflict that has developed between the Council's chosen director for the observatory, Benjamin Apthorp Gould, and the observatory's Board of Trustees. Although Henry is initially able to help broker an agreement between Gould and the trustees, Gould is ultimately fired. Other members of the Scientific Council, including Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey and Henry's friend Alexander Dallas Bache, respond with angry letters, a public protest meeting, and an appeal to the state legislature. Henry prefers to handle the matter more quietly, in part because he fears that the controversy could endanger appropriations to the Coast Survey, the Smithsonian, and the Light-House Board, on which he serves. The trustees are able to successfully influence newspaper coverage of the controversy, resulting in public disapproval of the Scientific Council.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Gould, Benjamin Apthorp
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Dudley Observatory


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Vol. 10, January 1858 - December 1865: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2004, pp. xv-xvii, 32-33.

Contact information

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


June 28, 1858


  • Observatories
  • Labor disputes
  • Astronomers
  • Controversies
  • Astronomy


Albany (N.Y.)

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