A Memoir of Joseph Henry: A Sketch of His Scientific Work

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  • Work covers Henry's early education and career (including "Communications to the Albany Institute," "State Appointment as a Civil Engineer," "Election as Professor of Mathematics," and "Meteorological Work"). Continues with an analysis of his electrical researches at Albany (1827-1832) which includes extensive study of electromagnets, a comparison of Henry's magnet with that of Gerard Moll, and an analysis of Henry's "intensity" magnet. Pays particular attention to Henry's invention of the first electromagnetic engine. Work continues with Henry's election to the position of professor at Princeton, and provides another section on his electrical researches at Princeton (1833-1842), which included "Electrical Self- Induction."
  • There is information on his visits to Europe, lectures and papers presented, as well as description of his other scientific interests: Meteorology, molecular physics, and experiments with light and heat. There is an extensive section on the administration of the SI (see above) that explores Henry's relationship with Congress and the Board of Regents, as well as presents his opinions on a National Museum and Smithsonian Library. Explores meteorology at the Smithsonian, archeological work (expeditions and explorations), publications. Also provides information on the Fire of 1865, Henry's relationship with the Light-House Board (including chairmanship of the Committee of Experiments, 1865).
  • Finally recounts many of Henry's outside scientific interests, including work with the thermal telescope and Sulphuric-acid Barometer, experiments on Building-Stone, the Hydrometric Experiment, derivation of species, as well as investigations in acoustics. Provides information on his sickness and eventual death. Lastly, this work provides a section on "Personality and Character" which gives information on his personal appearance, logical mind and "broad humanity."


  • Ten Eyck, Philip
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Albany Institute
  • United States Light House Board
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL)
  • United States Congress
  • Meteorological Project
  • Board of Regents
  • College of New Jersey (Princeton, N.J.)
  • United States National Museum


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Read before the Philosophical Society of Washington, 26 October, 1878. "A large portion of the discourse (including nearly the whole of the section on the 'Administration of the Smithsonian Institution') was necessarily omitted on the occasion of its delivery." Reprinted in its entirety in A MEMORIAL OF JOSEPH HENRY, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880): 205-364. Includes footnotes.

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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




  • Secretariats
  • Secretaries
  • Electromagnets
  • Electromagnetic Induction
  • Biography

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