After a decade of debate about how best to spend a bequest left to America from an obscure English scientist, President James K. Polk signs the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.
In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson’s curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic. . . . Read Complete Report
Invited Comment by Rick Osmon
Dennis has invited me to provide a bit of commentary on this particular story because he knows I continue to express profound doubt in the top level integrity of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian is unique in several respects. It is considered by Federal law to be a private institution, yet when it goes to collect specimens it claims it carries the weight of law, in some cases, to force collection.
The Smithsonian claims to house in its collection more than 136 million artifacts, yet, when one inquires Read more