Advocate for American Science
"The Smithsonian Institution is . . . opening new fields of philosophical research, increasing the amount of knowledge not only in the United States, but in all civilized nations, and commanding a name and respect every where; thus reflecting honor upon our country."
Whereas some Americans accused Secretary Henry of squandering Smithson's bequest on the risky and elitist venture of scientific research, many others hailed him as a visionary.
"[The Smithsonian] must, it will become a fountain from which ten thousand streams will flow out in all directions to refresh and gladden the hearts of all who will partake its bounty."
"Under [Secretary Henry's] auspices, we have a sufficient guaranty that charlatanism and pretension, in all forms, will be held aloof, while science and sound learning, with the true spirit of investigation, will be fostered to the utmost."
As a scientist, Joseph Henry was recognized for his discovery of principles essential to the development of the long-distance telegraph, the electric motor, and the transformer.
Guardian of the Smithson Bequest
Secretary Henry personally negotiated with a number of commercial enterprises—international couriers in particular—to donate their services to the Smithsonian. He maintained close oversight to ensure that agreements were met and costs contained.
Forerunner of the U.S. Weather Bureau
Determined that the Smithsonian should become a center for
scientific activity, Secretary Henry in 1848 established a
national volunteer meteorological network in cooperation
with the federal government and the telegraph industry.
Scientists working in the Smithsonian Building used incoming
data to track storms and to construct a daily weather map.
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