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Encyclopedia > Smithsonian
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The "Smithsonian castle," as seen through the garden gate.

The Smithsonian Institution is a museum complex with most of its facilities in Washington D.C.. It consists of 16 museums, 7 research centers and 142 million items in its collections.


A monthly magazine published by the Smithsonian Institution is also named Smithsonian.

Contents

History

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"The Castle."

The Smithsonian Institution was founded for the promotion and dissemination of knowledge by a bequest to the United States by James Smithson (1765-1829). In James Smithson's will, he stated that should his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, die without heirs, the Smithson estate would go to the United States of America for establishing an institution "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men". After the nephew died without heirs in 1835, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress of the bequest, which amounted to 100,000 gold sovereigns, or $500,000 U.S. dollars ($8,790,303 in current 2004 U.S. dollars after inflation). Eight years later, Congress passed an act establishing the Smithsonian Institution and the act was signed into law on August 10, 1846 by James Polk. The bill was drafted by Indiana Democratic Congressman Robert Dale Owen, a Socialist and son of Robert Owen, the father of the cooperative movement. The Smithsonian Institution is established as a trust administered by a secretary and board of regents. The nominal head of the institute is the Chancellor, an office which has always been held by the current Chief Justice of the United States. Serving as a member of the board of regents is one of the very few official legal duties of the Vice President of the United States.


The Information Center in the central complex has architecture reminiscent of a castle and is known informally as "The Castle". Many of the other buildings are landmarks and feature other distinctive architectural styles.


The asteroid 3773 Smithsonian is named in honor of the institution.


Secretaries of the Smithsonian

  1. Joseph Henry1846-1878
  2. Spencer Fullerton Baird – 1878-1887
  3. Samuel Pierpont Langley – 1887-1906
  4. Charles Doolittle Walcott1907-1927
  5. Charles Greeley Abbot1928-1944
  6. Alexander Wetmore – 1944-1952
  7. Leonard Carmichael – 1953-1964
  8. Sidney Dillon Ripley – 1964-1984
  9. Robert McCormick Adams – 1984-1994
  10. I. Michael Heyman – 1994-1999
  11. Lawrence M. Small – 2000-present

See: The Secretaries of the Smithsonian Institution (http://newsdesk.si.edu/HistoryandMore/The%20Secretaries%202003.pdf)


Further reading

  • Nina Burleigh, Stranger and the Statesman: James Smithson, John Quincy Adams, and the Making of America's Greatest Museum, The Smithsonian, Harpercollins, September, 2003, hardcover, 288 pages, ISBN 0060002417

Links and references

Museums

Research centers

  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • Carrie-Bow Marine Field Station
  • Center For Earth and Planetary Studies
  • Environmental Research Center
  • Marine Station at Fort Pierce
  • Migratory Bird Center
  • Tropical Research Institute

External links

  • Smithsonian Institution webpage (http://www.si.edu)
  • Maps and aerial photos
    • Street map from Mapquest (http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?latlongtype=decimal&latitude=38.89116&longitude=-77.02615&zoom=9)
    • Topographic map from Topozone (http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=38.89116&lon=-77.02615&s=24&size=m)
    • Aerial photograph from Microsoft Terraserver (http://terraserver.microsoft.com/map.aspx?t=4&s=8&lon=-77.02615&lat=38.89116&w=600&h=400)

  Results from FactBites:
 
Smithsonian Institution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (660 words)
The Smithsonian Institution is a museum complex with most of its facilities in Washington, D.C. It consists of 19 museums and seven research centers, and has 142 million items in its collections.
The Smithsonian Institution was founded for the promotion and dissemination of knowledge by a bequest to the United States by the British scientist James Smithson (1765–1829).
The Smithsonian Institution is established as a trust administered by a secretary and board of regents.
Smithsonian Distances Itself From Controversial Film (495 words)
Last week, Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian author sympathetic to the intelligent design movement, posted on her blog that the Smithsonian, in a "stunning development," was going to screen the documentary.
In its statement yesterday, the Smithsonian said it will honor the agreement to screen the film June 23, but that it does not endorse the film and will not accept the agreed-upon fee offered for the auditorium.
When asked if the Smithsonian had made a mistake in initially agreeing to host the event, spokesman Randall Kremer says: "We don't look at it in terms of whether we made a mistake or not.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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