The Joseph Henry Papers Project


In 1954, the National Historical Publications Commission put Joseph Henry on a list of great Americans whose papers were considered most worthy of publication. The commission recognized the nation's neglect of its scientific heritage, to which Henry made an indispensable contribution.

In 1966, three of the country's foremost institutions of learning--the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Smithsonian Institution--launched and became co-sponsors of the Joseph Henry Papers Project, the only documentary editing project to focus on the life of an American scientist. The Smithsonian provided office space and institutional support.

Directed initially by Nathan Reingold and later by Marc Rothenberg, the project conducted a world-wide search for Henry documents to supplement those already held by the Smithsonian. The project staff obtained copies of Henry documents from some 300 repositories in 17 nations. They identified nearly 136,000 Henry documents and developed a computerized index to them, which is searchable by subject, name, and date. This document database is detailed in a separate section and is available at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The staff also selected and annotated some of the most important documents for publication in The Papers of Joseph Henry. The volumes, eleven in total, are described in a separate section (where ordering information is also available). The sample documents will also give you an idea of what is in the volumes.

For information about other documentary editing projects, you can leave this site and visit the home pages of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Association for Documentary Editing. For more on the history of science, see the Distinguished Members Gallery of the National Academy of Sciences and the History Center of the American Institute of Physics.

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