The Lost World of James Smithson

The Lost World of James Smithson

Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian

Book - 2007
Average Rating:
Rate this:

In 1836 the United States government received a strange and unprecedented gift--a half-million dollar bequest to establish a foundation in Washington "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." The Smithsonian Institution, as it would be called, eventually grew into the largest museum and research complex in the world. Yet the man behind what became "America's attic," James Smithson, has remained a shadowy figure for more than 150 years.

Drawing on unpublished diaries and letters from across Europe and the United States, historian Heather Ewing tells his compelling story in full. The illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland, Smithson was the youngest member of Britain's Royal Society and a talented chemist admired by the greatest scientists of his age. At the same time, however, he was also a suspected spy, an inveterate gambler, and a radical revolutionary during the turbulent years of the Napoleonic Wars. But at the heart of Smithson's story is his bequest--worth $9 million in today in today's currency--which sparked an international lawsuit and a decade-long congressional battle, featuring a dizzying cast of historical figures, including John Quincy Adams, and Alexander Graham Bell, both of whom grappled with how--and even whether--to put Smithson's endowment to use.

Fascinating and magisterial, Ewing's biography presents a sweeping portrait of a remarkable man at the center of the English Enlightenment and the creation of America's greatest museum.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2007
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9781596910294
1596910291
Branch Call Number: B SmithsonEwing
Characteristics: 432 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., geneal. tables, maps ; 25 cm

Opinion

From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment

There are no comments for this title yet.

Age

Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.

Summary

Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Quotes

Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Recommendations

Subject Headings

  Loading...

Find it at OPL

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top