Joseph Henry's Letter to Louis Agassiz (May 31, 1869)

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  • Letter from Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to Louis Agassiz, a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, and geologist, May 31, 1869. In the letter, Henry discusses a recent meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. He states that he does not expect any further appropriations from the United States Congress for the National Academy. It is also stated that Congress will not publish a volume of papers written by the Academy, and he foresees that in the future the Academy will have to be a self-supporting organization.
  • 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.


  • Agassiz, Louis 1807-1873
  • United States Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


The accompanying PDF contains SIA2012-3075, SIA2012-3076, and SIA2012-3077, which are pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 11, pages 247-249 (Document 123).

Contained within

  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 33, Box 6, Folder: Volume 14
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds., The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, The Smithsonian Years: January 1866-May 1878 (Smithsonian Institution in association with Science History Publications/USA, 2007), 247-249

Contact information

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


May 31, 1869

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Publishers and publishing
  • Geologists
  • Paleontologists
  • Secretaries
  • Letters
  • Science
  • Expenditures, Public


  • Switzerland
  • New York (N.Y.)


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2012-6142 and SIA2012-6143 and SIA2012-6144 and SIA2012-6145

Physical description

Number of Images: 4; Color: Color; Size: 7.35w x 10.00h; Type of Image: Document; Medium: Paper

Full Record

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