Joseph Henry Elected President of National Academy of Sciences

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Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry becomes the second president of the National Academy of Sciences. Henry had agreed to become vice-president after the Academy's first president, Henry's close friend and mentor Alexander Dallas Bache, became incapacitated by a brain disorder in 1864. Henry was reluctant to serve as the Academy's president because he felt his role as Smithsonian Secretary would present a conflict of interest, but he agreed to serve at the urging of Bache's widow. Henry was elected during a meeting held at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., from January 22 to January 25, chaired primarily by himself. Of sixteen votes cast, Henry received fifteen. He cast his own vote for Louis Agassiz.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Agassiz, Louis 1807-1873
  • National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Rexmond C. Cochrane, The National Academy of Sciences, the First Hundred Years, 1863-1963 (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1978), 99.
  • Marc Rothenberg, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, January 1866-December 1878: The Smithsonian Years (Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2007), xv, xxi, 172.

Contact information

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


January 23, 1868


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United States

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