The Smithsonian
The Renwick Gallery The Old Patent Office Building Mary Henry's Diary SI During the Civil War The Castle
ince its completion in 1855, the Smithsonian Castle was both home and workplace for the institution's first secretary, Joseph Henry, and his family. Henry was an eminent American scientist and educator at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) before being selected to head the new institution in 1846. He was a pioneer in the field of electromagnetism and the telegraph, and he invented the electric motor. He was also thoroughly committed to making the Smithsonian worthy of its mandate to increase and diffuse knowledge throughout the world. Curiously, Henry’s vision for the Smithsonian was not the modern complex of extensive buildings and multiple museums America knows today. He thought the Smithsonian endowment of roughly half a million dollars could not support the cost of building museums, which he believed would be impractical for most nineteenth-century Americans to ever visit. Henry had not even been in favor of the building of the Castle. Rather, he envisioned an institution whose core mission was intellectual and whose realm of inquiry was international. He favored the dissemination of knowledge in a wide range of fields, including physics, astronomy, chemistry, natural history, and archaeology, through an annual publication called Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. Publications of this kind were expensive to produce, especially if they contained lithographic illustrations. Henry believed the institution could financially assist scientists in the publication of their findings and also encourage the foreign exchange of scientific papers and journals.

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