Monday, August 10, 2015

Happy birthday, @Smithsonian Institution! Keep on "increasing and diffusing" for Americans and the world!

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"On August 10, 1846, the United States Congress passed the legislation (9 Stat. 102) founding the Smithsonian Institution as an establishment dedicated to the "increase and diffusion of knowledge," and President James K. Polk signed it into law the same day. This legislation was the culmination of over a decade of debate within the Congress, and among the general public, over an unusual bequest. When the English chemist and mineralogist, James Smithson, died in 1829, he left a will stating that if his nephew and sole heir died without heirs, his estate should go to the United States “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Smithsonian Archives. General History

In case you were wondering, the building on the right is not the famed Castle of the Smithsonian in Washington, but rather Syon House in west London, one of the family homes of the Duke of Northumberland. Had the Duke acknowledged James Smithson, perhaps this is the building we'd associate him with instead of this one:


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