A Man of Science
"Every man is a valuable member of society who
by his observations, researches, and experiments
procures knowledge for men."
Smithson published at least 27 papers on chemistry,
geology, and mineralogy in scientific journals. His
topics included the chemical content of a lady's teardrop,
the crystalline form of ice, and an improved method of
In 1802 Smithson overturned popular scientific opinion by
proving that zinc carbonates were true carbonate minerals,
not zinc oxides. One calamine (a type of zinc carbonate)
was renamed smithsonite posthumously in Smithson's
honor in 1832. Smithsonite was a principal source
of zinc until the 1880s.
Luckily, all 213 volumes from Smithson's personal library,
as well as a few of his writings, survived a devastating
fire in the Smithsonian Building in 1865.