Joseph Henry Papers Project
Institutional History Division

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Click on painting of Henry
Painting by Henry Ulke, 1875.
National Portrait Gallery.

The Joseph Henry Papers Project is documenting the life of Joseph Henry (1797-1878), the most revered American scientist of his times and the first Secretary (director) of the Smithsonian Institution. Henry's pioneering work in electricity and magnetism helped bring about the invention of the telegraph, the electric motor, and the telephone. At the Smithsonian Institution he created the outlines of the unique research and cultural institution that we know today.

"The most prominent idea in my mind is that of stimulating the talent of our country to original research,--in which it has been most lamentably difficient [sic]--to pour fresh material on the apex of the pyramid of science, and thus to enlarge its base."--Joseph Henry, on the purpose of the Smithsonian Institution.*
        Click here for more Henry quotes.

The web site of the Joseph Henry Papers Project includes articles about Henry's scientific accomplishments prior to becoming head of the Smithsonian, as well as articles about his career at the Smithsonian. We also have information about the eleven-volume edition of The Papers of Joseph Henry and selected documents from the edition. Get started by looking at some of the areas below:

For questions about the content of our web site, please e-mail Marc Rothenberg at For permission to use images on the site, please e-mail Frank Millikan at

The Joseph Henry Papers Project is located at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington , D.C. , and is part of the Institutional History Division of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Our mailing address is Joseph Henry Papers, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507, Washington, DC 20013-7012. You may also reach us by telephone at 202-633-5932.

Site constructed October 10, 1997, by Frank R. Millikan, Historian
Last revised:
October 2, 2006

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