Joseph Henry's Letter to Stephen Alexander (March 9, 1863)

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  • Letter from Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to Stephen Alexander, a Professor at Princeton University and his brother-in-law, March 9, 1863. In the letter, Henry discusses the United States Congress passing the act that established the National Academy of Sciences. He notes his displeasure with the list of members as chosen by Congress and writes that he expects a meeting to be held soon in order to correct the mistakes that have been made in regards to those chosen to be members of the Academy.
  • The National Academy of Sciences was established on March 3, 1863, by an act of the United States Congress. The purpose of the Academy was to advance science and to advise the federal government on scientific matters. Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was named as one of the academy's fifty members and chaired its inaugural meeting in New York. He initially declined a leadership position due to his role at the Smithsonian, but would become the Academy's president in 1868. The Smithsonian furnished rooms in the Smithsonian Institution Building, or "Castle," to the organization for its meetings and library.


  • Alexander, Stephen
  • National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
  • Princeton University
  • United States Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


The accompanying PDF contains SIA2012-2664, SIA2012-2665, and SIA2012-2666, which are pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 10, pages 296-298 (Document 168).

Contained within

  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7001, Box 58, Folder: 9 - Stephen Alexander 1860-1876
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds., The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 10, The Smithsonian Years: January 1858-December 1865 (Smithsonian Institution in association with Science History Publications/USA, 2004), 296-298

Contact information

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


March 9, 1863

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Letters
  • Secretaries
  • Science


New York (N.Y.)


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2012-2845 and SIA2012-2846

Physical description

Number of Images: 2 ; Color: Color ; Size: 8 1/4w x 10 3/4h ; Type of Image: Document ; Medium: Paper

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