Joseph Henry Makes Official Visit to Europe

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Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry visits Europe on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, arriving in London on June 11. The Smithsonian's Board of Regents had surprised Henry with this idea, in part to restore his health and provide him with a vacation from his duties in Washington. Henry's daughter Mary accompanies him. In London, Henry testifies before a British government scientific commission regarding the objects and methods of the Smithsonian. On August 8, Henry represents the United States, by appointment of President Ulysses S. Grant, at an international commission to consider the best means of making copies for distribution of the original meter preserved in the French archives. From September 14 to September 21, Henry attends a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Liverpool, where he spends time with the British scientist John Tyndall. He also visits museums and observatories in Ireland, Scotland, Belgium and Germany, and makes a brief excursion to the Swiss alps. Joseph and Mary Henry returned to New York on the "Russia," arriving October 13 after a twelve-day journey and taking a train to Washington the next day.


  • Grant, Ulysses S (Ulysses Simpson) 1822-1885
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Henry, Mary Anna 1834-1903
  • British Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Board of Regents
  • Regents Smithsonian Institution
  • United States President


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, January 1866-December 1878: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2007, pp. xxxiv-xxxv, 301-23.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 837.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1870, p. 45.

Contact information

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


June-October 1870


  • Description and travel
  • Metric system
  • Weights and measures
  • Secretaries
  • International relations
  • Travel--Europe


  • Great Britain
  • Belgium
  • Ireland
  • Europe
  • Scotland
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • Germany

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