U.S. Science Policy and Science Advice, 1840-1878

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  • Article concerns the influence of Joseph Henry, appointed in 1846 as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, on science policy in the United States from the 1840's through the 1870's. Henry is viewed by the author as the principal lobbyist for the American scientific community and implementer of American science policy during that time due to his singular position as an independent, politically-savvy individual who practiced the art of compromise and was wise to the ways of working with the U.S. Congress and other government executives. Alexander Dallas Bache, director of the U.S. Coast Survey, is viewed by historians as the planner of scientific policy of the time and campaigned to have Henry appointed Smithsonian Secretary.
  • However, some of Bache's actions, especially in connection with the establishment of the National Academy of Sciences, lessened his effectiveness by dividing the scientific community, so Henry's talents and influence were called upon to play the role of primary science advisor, implement science policy decisions, and assure funding for various scientific projects. Henry would be the last individual to exert as much power over the nation's scientific matters for such a lengthy period.


  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • United States Congress
  • National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


The author is editor of the Joseph Henry Papers at the Smithsonian Institution. The article is based on remarks delivered at the 23rd Annual AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy held April 29-May 1, 1998, in Washington, D.C. Twelve "Endnotes" follow the article.

Contained within

AAAS Science and Technology Policy Yearbook (Yearbook)

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




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Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

pgs. 285-291

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