James Smithson

James Smithson

Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Death 27 Jun 1829 (aged 63–64)
Genoa, Città Metropolitana di Genova, Liguria, Italy
Burial Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Plot The Castle
Memorial ID 5834 · View Source
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Benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution. James Smithson was the illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland. Originally named James Macie , which was the surname of his mother's husband, James was born in Paris and over the years spent significant time in France. As a student at Oxford, he felt embarrassed that he could not wear the academic gown given to men of noble birth. A brilliant man, he developed a keen interest in science, especially mineralogy, and conducted experiments in the newly developing field of chemistry. He was highly respected in scientific and intellectual circles and traveled widely throughout Europe. Of fragile health, Smithson never married. He had a strong admiration for the newly formed United States of America, which he considered to be the nation of the future in which advanced ideas of science and learning would flourish. Although he never crossed the Atlantic, he left his considerable fortune to the United States, to found in Washington "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." In a letter he wrote that while the names of the aristocratic relatives who shunned him – the Percys and Northumberlands – would fade from memory, his name would live on. Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has grown into the largest museum and research complex in the world. James Smithson died in Genoa, Italy and was buried there. In 1903 Alexander Graham Bell and his wife oversaw the exhumation of Smithson's body so that it could be moved to a place of honor in the institution that his generosity established.

Bio by: Tigress

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Sacred to the Memory of James Smithson, Esq.re Fellow of the Royal Society of London, who died at Genoa the 26. June 1829. aged 75 years.



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 8 Jul 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 5834
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James Smithson (1765–27 Jun 1829), Find a Grave Memorial no. 5834, citing Smithsonian Institution, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .