Joseph Henry Partially Paralyzed




Date: December 5, 1877


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During a visit to Staten Island where he planned to conduct experiments for the Light-House Board, Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry awakes to find his "right hand in a paralytic condition." In addition to the paralysis, Henry experiences "paroxysms of pain through the region of the heart" and difficulty breathing. The initial diagnosis is a stroke but it is soon revised to a kidney problem (Bright's Disease). On December 19, Henry would write that his hand was gradually getting better and that he could now "make a legible scrawl."


Henry, Joseph 1797-1878


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Photograph of Joseph Henry by Brady's, c. 1875. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number mah44307.
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, January 1866-December 1878: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2007, pp. 637-38.

Contact information

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


December 5, 1877


  • Health
  • Biography

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