Birth of James Smithson

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James Smithson is born to Elizabeth Hungerford Keate Macie, widow of James Macie, a country gentleman from Weston, near Bath, England. At the time of his birth, he is given the name James Lewis Macie. He is born in France, then brought to England for his education, and naturalized. His father is Hugh Smithson, who later becomes Duke of Northumberland.


  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Macie, Elizabeth Hungerford Keate
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Smithson, Hugh, Sir 1715-1786
  • Pembroke College (Oxford University)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • This date of birth is 11 years later than the date of 1754, initially given as the date of Smithson's birth. The inscription on Smithson's tomb gives his age at death in 1829 as 75 years which would have made his date of birth 1754. However, Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley later determined, from Smithson's matriculation records at Pembroke College, Oxford, that he was born in 1765. The discrepancy in dates is significant because the later date places Smithson's birth after the death of James Macie.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 1, 9.
  • Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 21, no. 330, Article I. "James Smithson and his Bequest," by William J. Rhees. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1880, p. 11.

Contact information

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


c. 1765


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