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  • The essay opens with a commentary on the importance of the scientific method in the past fifty years (1846-1896). The discussion then focuses on what has the Smithsonian done for mathematics. Author explains that the Smithsonian has been involved in the research of the Naval Observatory, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Surveys, the United States Geological Survey, and the Weather Bureau, all of which, consider math a integral dimension. He comments on Henry's interest in the mathematical theories of astronomy and geodesy and intercourse with prominent mathematicians, which led to the publishing of math works by the Smithsonian, including those of the Naval Observatory and Nautical Almanac Office, who were not able to publish their own works.
  • The Smithsonian also published mathematical, geographical, magnetic, meteorological and physical tables. Author also stresses that SI actively promoted the cultivation of math via "memoirs on mathematico-physical subjects" published by the Smithsonian, including astronomical papers, papers on heat, light and energy, meteorological papers, and summaries of current progress in astronomy, geology, meteorology and physics. The Smithsonian also published biographies and memoirs of "distinguished devotees to the mathematico-physical sciences" in the "Annual Reports." Finally, Woodward correlated the rise in interest in mathematics with the rise of the Smithsonian Institution.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • United States Naval Observatory
  • Meteorological Project
  • United States Weather Bureau
  • U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
  • United States Naval Observatory Nautical Almanac Office
  • Weather Bureau


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Woodward was, at the time, Professor of Mechanics, Columbia University

Contained within

The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of its First Half Century (Book)

Contact information

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




  • Scientific expeditions
  • Geology
  • Secretaries
  • Natural History
  • SI, Early History
  • Field Work
  • Mathematics
  • Museums
  • Astronomy
  • Physics
  • Magnetic Telegraph
  • Meteorology
  • Museum publications
  • Natural history

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