The Smithsonian Institution

James Smithson, MA, FRS (c. 1765 – 27 June 1829) was an English chemist and mineralogist. He was the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithson was the illegitimate child of the 1st Duke of Northumberland, and was born secretly in Paris, on an unknown date, possibly in the Pentemont Abbey, as Jacques-Louis Macie (later altered to James Louis). Eventually, he was naturalized in England and attended university, studying chemistry and mineralogy at Pembroke College, Oxford. At the age of twenty-two, he changed his surname from Macie to Smithson, his father’s pre-marriage surname. Smithson traveled extensively throughout Europe publishing papers about his findings. Considered a talented amateur in his field, Smithson maintained an inheritance he acquired from his mother and other relatives.

Smithson was never married and had no children; therefore, when he wrote his will, he left his estate to his nephew, or his nephew’s family if his nephew died before Smithson. If his nephew was to die without heirs, however, Smithson’s will stipulated that his estate be used “to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” In 1835, his nephew died and so could not claim to be the recipient of his estate; therefore, Smithson became the patron of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. despite having never visited the United States.

Smithson is credited with first using the word “silicates”.Smithson’s bank records at C. Hoare & Co show extensive and regular income derived from Apsley Pellatt (1763–1826), which suggests that Smithson had a strong financial or scientific relationship with the Blackfriars glass maker.

Apsley Pellatt, (1763 – Jan 21, 1826) was an English glass manufacturer.

Apsley Pellatt was the son of Apsley Pellatt (1736–1798) and Sarah (née Meriton) Pellatt. At St Andrews church, Holborn on Mar 20, 1788 he married Mary Maberly, daughter of prosperous manufacturer Stephen Maberly and sister of John Maberly. They had 15 children, of which Apsley Pellatt was the eldest son.

Pellatt is relate to Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt.

(Major-General Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, CVO (January 6, 1859 – March 8, 1939) was a Canadian financier and soldier.

He is notable for his role in bringing hydro-electricity to Toronto, Ontario, for the first time, and also for his large château in Toronto, called Casa Loma, which was the biggest private residence ever constructed in Canada. Casa Loma would eventually become a well-known landmark of the city. His summer home and farm in King City later became Marylake Augustinian Monastery.)

The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846 “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States.

Originally organized as the “United States National Museum,” that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.

The Institution’s nineteen museums, nine research centers, and zoo include historical and architectural landmarks, mostly located in the District of Columbia.

Additional facilities are located in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York City, Virginia, Texas, and Panama. More than 200 institutions and museums in 45 states, Puerto Rico, and Panama are Smithsonian Affiliates.

The Institution’s thirty million annual visitors are admitted without charge. The institution’s annual budget is around $1.2 billion with 2/3 coming from annual federal appropriations. Other funding comes from the Institution’s endowment, private and corporate contributions, membership dues, and earned retail, concession, and licensing revenue.

The British scientist James Smithson (d. 1829) left most of his wealth to his nephew Henry James Hungerford. When Hungerford died childless in 1835, the estate passed “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men”, in accordance with Smithson’s will.

Congress officially accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation, and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust on July 1, 1836. The American diplomat Richard Rush was dispatched to England by President Andrew Jackson to collect the bequest. Rush returned in August 1838 with 105 sacks containing 104,960 gold sovereigns (about $500,000 at the time, which is equivalent to $11,245,000 in 2016).

Once the money was in hand, eight years of Congressional haggling ensued over how to interpret Smithson’s rather vague mandate “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Unfortunately, the money was invested by the US Treasury in bonds issued by the state of Arkansas which soon defaulted.

After heated debate, Massachusetts Representative (and ex-President) John Quincy Adams persuaded Congress to restore the lost funds with interest and, despite designs on the money for other purposes, convinced his colleagues to preserve it for an institution of science and learning.

Finally, on August 10, 1846, President James K. Polk signed the legislation that established the Smithsonian Institution as a trust instrumentality of the United States, to be administered by a Board of Regents and a Secretary of the Smithsonian