Joseph Henry
American Physicist

Joseph Henry || The Papers of Joseph Henry || Joseph Henry Papers Project || Database

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

Joseph Henry (1797-1878), was the most revered American scientist of his times and the first Secretary (director) of the Smithsonian Institution. His 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.*
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This Web site was created in 1997 by the staff of the Joseph Henry Papers Project to mark the bicentennial of Henry's birth. The site includes articles about Henry's scientific accomplishments prior to becoming head of the Smithsonian, as well as articles about his career at the Smithsonian. It also has 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 the Web site or for permission to use images on the site, please e-mail or call 202-633-5910.

Site constructed October 10, 1997, by Frank R. Millikan
Last revised:
August 1, 2007

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