"Crossing Borders: The Smithsonian Institution and the Nineteenth-Century Diffusion of Scientific Information between the United States and Canada"

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MacDonald discusses the role of the Smithsonian in the diffusion of scientific publications in North America through its International Exchange Service, especially its relationship with Canadians who were interested in science. He focuses on Roderick MacFarlane, a factor for the Hudson's Bay Company, whose isolated location left him dependent upon the Smithsonian for access to scientific publications. At the encouragement of Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry and Assistant Secretary Spencer Baird, MacFarlane and others provided the Smithsonian's National Museum with specimens that would never have access to without their help, creating an exchange that was profitable to both parties. MacDonald argues that exchanges with Canada were most effective in advancing the careers of individual scientists, rather than federal science, as it had in the United States.


  • MacFarlane, R (Roderick) 1833-1920
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Hudson's Bay Company
  • International Exchange Service (IES)
  • National Collections
  • United States National Museum


Smithsonian History Bibliography

Citation information

Print Culture History in Modern America


Essay is in Part 2: The Circulation of Scientific Knowledge in Print.

Contained within

Science in Print: Essays on the History of Science and the Culture of Print (Book)

Contact information

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




  • International exchanges
  • Publications
  • Natural History
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Exchanges, Literary and scientific
  • Natural history



Physical description

Number of pages : 20; Page numbers : 87-106

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