Title Page of the National Institute's Catalogue of "Extraordinary Curiosities", by Hunter, Alfred d. 1872, 1859, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, Title page entitled, "A popular catalogue of the extraordinary curiosities in the National institute, arranged in the building belonging to the Patent office. Curiosities collected from all parts of the world by the officers of the Army and Navy of the United States." The National Institute (1840-1862) was first organized as the National Institution for the Promotion of Science at Washington, D.C., in 1840 as a voluntary society interested in promoting study of diverse subjects, particularly natural history and the physical sciences. In 1842 Congress granted the body a federal charter, and it was known as the National Institute for the Promotion of Science thereafter until its dissolution in 1862 when the Institute transferred its remaining collections to the Smithsonian Institution and quietly expired. Joel Poinsett was the Institute's first president..