On the Works and Character of James Smithson

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Assesses the character and scientific contributions of James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Argues that Smithson did not make great discoveries but made solid contributions to the increase of knowledge in two fields that were in their infancy--chemistry and mineralogy--and in a field barely born--geology. Smithson developed several new types of chemical tests and did fine measurements with the equipment then available; his qualitative analyses were significant contributions; and he discovered several new species of minerals. Concludes that Smithson's greatest strength was as an experimenter.


Smithson, James 1765-1829


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Citation information

Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections Vol. 21


Prepared at the request of the Institution, 1878

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




  • Chemistry
  • Geology
  • Mineralogy
  • Science
  • Scientists
  • Experiments
  • Bibliography
  • Biography
  • Science--Experiments

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