James Smithson and the Smithsonian Story

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This general work on the history of the Smithsonian Institution begins with an overview on the Smithsonian, which includes sections on "The Vision of James Smithson Made Real by Joseph Henry," early rise of museums, Samuel P. Langley's studies in aviation and astrophysics, Charles G. Abbot and Charles D. Walcott's research, the history of the National Zoological Park, and recent developments, including the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. An entire section is devoted to the life of James Smithson, whose bequest founded the Smithsonian Institution. The last section provides additional history, and practical elements of the Smithsonian, including employment practices.


  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Abbot, C. G (Charles Greeley) b. 1872
  • Walcott, Charles D (Charles Doolittle) 1850-1927
  • John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (U.S.)
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Leonard Carmichael served as the seventh Secretary of the Smithsonian from 1953 to 1964.

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Contact information

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




  • Secretaries
  • SI, Early History
  • Science
  • Biography
  • Research


Barro Colorado Nature Monument (Panama)

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