Philosophical Society of Washington Established




Date: March 13, 1871


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In response to a petition requesting Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry to establish a local scientific society, Henry presides over a meeting to create the Philosophical Society of Washington. Henry is elected president and gives a presidential address on November 18, 1871. In it, he explains that Washington needed "a society for the advancement of science" because such a large proportion of the city's residents were engaged in scientific pursuits as employees of federal entities devoted to various branches of science.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Philosophical Society of Washington


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Image of Joseph Henry's apartments in the East Wing of the Smithsonian Institution Building, where the Philosophical Society of Washington met in its first years, by Titian Ramsey Peale, 1862. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number mah-x3253.
  • 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. xxiii, 345-46.
  • Guide to Smithsonian Archives. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983. Archives and Special Collections of the Smithsonian Institution Number 4., p. 297.
  • Flack, J. Kirkpatrick. "Desideratum in Washington, The Intellectual Community In the Capital City 1870-1900." Cambridge: Sckenkman Publishing Company, Inc., 1975., p. 60.

Contact information

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


March 13, 1871


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Washington (D.C.)

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