Skip to main content

Happy Birthday Smithsonian

Aug 11, 2011 05:17PM ● Published by Anonymous

With 19 museums and galleries and approximately 30 million visitors each year, the significance of this influential institution is widely renowned, but less known is the strange story behind its inception 165 years ago.

The Smithsonian Institution was established with funds left to the United States government by James Smithson. A British scientist, Smithson wrote in his will that he wished for his estate to be used “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

One may ask, what is so odd about a scientist leaving his estate to benefit future generations of intellectuals? Smithson never traveled to the United States, let alone Washington, D.C., in his entire life. With no explanation of his reasoning, the motivation behind Smithson’s choice has never been discovered.

The government was so confused by what to do with this donation, totaling more than $500,000 in gold sovereigns, that it took them years of debate from Smithson’s death in 1829 until August 10, 1846, to finally decide to found what is now known as the world’s largest museum and research complex. While Smithson’s motives remain a mystery, the Smithsonian Institution is still thankful, 165 years later, for his bewildering bequest.

Arts+Entertainment the arts
  • Blazers. Bourbon. Cigars

    09/28/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Join Historic Annapolis at the William Paca House and Garden for the original premiere Gentlemen'...


  • Clays 4 A Cause

    09/29/2017
    08:00AM

    New venue this year! Come test your aim at this sporting clays events at Shrader’s Bridgtown Mano...


  • Wine on the Beach

    09/29/2017
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Rediscover the best of Maryland fare at Wine on the Beach, a celebration of the burgeoning wine i...


  • Easton Airport Day

    09/30/2017
    10:00AM — 02:00PM

    Look out below! It’s a rubber chicken bomb! On Saturday, September 30th, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. at Easton...


  • Wine on the Beach

    09/30/2017
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Rediscover the best of Maryland fare at Wine on the Beach, a celebration of the burgeoning wine i...


  • Hope Re-Imagined: Esperida

    09/30/2017
    06:30PM — 10:30PM

    Ancient Greeks recognized that community members experiencing mental illness need healing care an...


  • The fourth annual Anne Arundel County Lifeline100 Bicycle Event hosted by Anne Arundel County Pol...


 

 

Towne Social