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From Smithson to Smithsonian - The Birth of an InstitutionWho Was James Smithson?

Who Was James Smithson?
Sccepting Smithson's Gift
All-American Compromise
The Smithsonian Building
An Institution Emerges
A National Collection
Smithson's Legacy

The Student Years

James Smithson at Oxford
James Smithson at Oxford

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A Student of Science

Smithson received a Master of Arts from Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1786. Noted scientist and fellow student Sir Davies Gilbert described Smithson as the best chemist and mineralogist of his year.

University Subscription Register, University Archives SP 14
University Subscription Register

Smithson was called by his mother's name, Macie, until her death in 1800, when he adopted his father's name. In this register he is listed as "Jacobus Ludovicus Macie e Col[lege] Pem[broke]" ("James Lewis Macie of Pem[broke] Col[lege]" in Latin).

In one of the few descriptions we have of Smithson, French geologist
Ancient Monuments...
"Ancient Monuments..."

Barthélemy Faujas de Saint Fond described him as a diligent young student, dedicated to scientific research, who even risked drowning to gather geological observations on a tour of the Hebrides Islands. William I. Thornton and Italian Count Paolo Andreani accompanied Smithson and Faujas de Saint Fond on the tour. This image shows three of the group studying "Ancient Monuments upon the Shore between Kirkaldy and Kinghorn" in Scotland.

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