Joseph Henry and John Henry LeFroy: A Common 19th Century Vision of Auroral Research

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This article discusses the mid-nineteenth century auroral research undertaken by British Lieutenant John Henry LeFroy, director of the Toronto Observatory, and founding Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry. LeFroy met Henry when the latter was still a professor at Princeton, and the two remained friends until Henry's death in 1878. In conjunction with the Smithsonian's meteorological project, which Henry launched at the time of the Institution's founding in 1846, the Smithsonian collected auroral data from observers throughout the United States. LeFroy collected data in Canada for many years, with the intention of combining this and the Smithsonian's data to publish a report, or memoir, on the subject. Although this was never published, LeFroy did send all his auroral data for 1848-53 to the Smithsonian. This material, which was combined with the U.S. data by a Smithsonian clerk for intended publication, can be found at the National Archives. The author contends this is a particularly valuable resource because no other such data exists for that period.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Lefroy, John Henry


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Contained within

Eos Vol. 70 (Journal)

Contact information

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





Physical description

pp. 227-240

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