The Smithsonian Institution is sometimes known as the American attic institution. Because of one man, people are able to go to the biggest museum in the world. It has almost 140 million artifacts and specimens in it. It contains 15 museums and a zoo. The museum is dedicated to public education, national service, and scholarships in arts, science, and history. James Smithson is a very important man. He helped America build one of our most prized possessions, the Smithsonian.
James Louis Macie was born in 1765 in Paris, France. His mother gave birth to him in secret. James father's name was Hugh Smithson, which was the first Duke of Northumberland and was one of the first patrons of the 18th century. James mother and father were not married when they had James. His mother was a wealthy widow from England.
James Louis Macie entered Pembroke College in 1782. He excelled in chemistry and mineralology.
In college, he joined the prominent French geologist Barthelemy Faujas de St. Fond on his tour of Scotland, with a group of scientist. In1786, he received his master's degree from Pembroke College. He went to London and joined many prestigious scientist groups.
James Macie inherited money in 1800 from his mother who passed away. Within a month from his mother's death, Macie changed his surname to Smithson, the name of his father. Smithson wrote his will in 1826 and shortly after writing his will James Louis Macie Smithson died in 1829. He is buried in the English Protestant cemetery. James Smithson left all of his money to the United States which totaled up to about $500,000.
Smithson had many accomplishments. He was an amazing scientist and was inducted to the Royal Society. It is Britain's oldest and most prestigious society. He was at that time the youngest member. Smithson traveled many places in Europe. Some of the places were Switzerland, England, Germany, Italy, Scotland, and France. He donated the money to the United States and he had never been there before in his life. He trusted the United States to make the best use of the money.
The Smithsonian Institution was built in 1855, but before it was built Congress had some trouble deciding what to do with the money. They thought of many things. A university, astromical observatory, scientific research lab, museum, or a library was the idea of Congress. President James K. Polk finally established the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian's first building built in 1855 was designed like a castle. It has many stories. In 1865, the top floor was burned which had Smithson's diaries and papers, mineral collection, and other personal possessions. His library survived the fire. Smithson's body is in the castle now. His coffin was shipped to the United States from Italy in 1903.
There are many building in the Smithsonian Institution. Some examples are Arts and Industry building, Anacostia Museum, National Zoological Park, National Museum of History and Technology, and National Portrait Gallery. The Arts and Industry building was constructed in April of 1879. It is made of red brick and Ohio sandstone. This building was first used to celebrate President James Garfield inauguration on March 4, 1881. Exhibitions opened in 1880's. The Anacostia Museum is a very small museum. It is a black historical museum. The National Zoological Park is a huge zoo in Washington D.C. It has about 2,500 animals and about 600 different species. Over millions visit this zoo each year. The National Museum of History and Technology is a huge building with many exhibits. There are many different machines. There are three floors. On the first floor mostly consists of evolution of design, farm machineries, vehicles, railroads, bridges and tunnels, tools and much more. On the second floor there are mostly about people. The third floor is armed forces history, photography, underwater explorations, musical instruments, and ceramics. The National Portrait Gallery was established in 1962 with an act from Congress.
The Smithsonian is very interesting and valuable buildings. It all has great history to it. James Smithson is a great American hero. His gift has brought knowledge and information to Americans for years and years to come.
BibliographiesSmithsonian Institution. Washington D.C: Smithsonian, 1980.
Unknown. James Smithson Biographical Information. [On-line], Available: http://newsdesk.si.edu/history/James_ Smithson_biographical_info.pdf. (2008).
Jacoby, Maureen R., ed. Official Guide to the Smithsonian. Praegen, 1970.
Unknown. "Smithson, James" World Book 1988 ed.