1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Smithson, James

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SMITHSON, JAMES (1765-1829), British chemist and mineralogist and founder of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, natural son of Hugh Smithson, 1st duke of Northumberland, by Mrs Elizabeth Keate Macie, a granddaughter of Sir George Hungerford of Studley, was born in France in 1765. He was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1786, and was known in early life as James Lewis (or Louis) Macie. He took the name of James Smithson about the year 1800. His attention was given to chemistry and mineralogy, and he published analyses of calamines and other papers in the Annals of Philosophy and Phil. Trans. The mineral name “smithsonite” was originally given in his honour by Beudant to zinc carbonate, but having also been applied to the silicate, the name is now rarely used. In 1784 he accompanied Faujas St Fond in his journey to the Western Isles, and in the English translation of the Travels in England, Scotland and the Hebrides (1799) Smithson is spoken of as “M. de Mecies of London.” He was elected F.R.S. in 1787. He died at Genoa on the 27th of June 1829. By his will he bequeathed upwards of £100,000 to the United States of America to found the Smithsonian Institution. The institution (see below) was founded by act of Congress on the 10th of August 1846.

See “James Smithson and his Bequest” (with portraits), by W. J. Rhees, and “The Scientific Writings of James Smithson,” edited by W. J. Rhees, Smithsonian Misc. Coll., vol. xxi. (1879-1880).