The Smithsonian Origin of the Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers

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The author discusses the role of founding Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry in the initiation of the Royal Society of London's Catalogue of Scientific Papers (1800-1900), "one of the most valuable and well-known compilations of scientific literature (p. 385)." A lieutenant for the U.S. Coast Survey, headed by Henry's friend Alexander Bache, first introduced the idea of a comprehensive catalog of works related to physical science in 1855. While Henry supported the project and the author contends it could have been undertaken by the Smithsonian, Henry suggested that the Royal Society pursue the larger project and that the Smithsonian merely contribute to it by providing a list of American works. Beaver speculates that Henry saw the project as too consuming and expensive for the Smithsonian, and not in the Institution's best interest. The author does not mention that Henry first proposed a scientific catalog in 1849. (See SIRIS History of the Smithsonian catalog, Chronology of Smithsonian History, Jan. 29, 1849.)


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Hunt, Edward Bissell
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Royal Society of London
  • U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
  • International Exchange Service (IES)


Smithsonian History Bibliography


Cited in Marc Rothenberg, et al, eds., The Papers of Joseph Henry, vol. 7, p. 469.

Contained within

Science Studies Vol. 2, No. 4 (Journal)

Contact information

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




  • International exchanges
  • Bibliography

Physical description

Number of pages: 9; Page numbers: 385-393

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