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And the Search for a Proper Memorial

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James Smithson, the English scientist whose bequest founded the Smithsonian Institution, died in Italy in 1829 at the age of 64. He was buried in a small English cemetery on the heights of San Benigno outside Genoa, Italy in a grave site purchased by his nephew, Henry Hungerford.

During the Smithsonian's formative years, officials of the Institution collected bits of biographical information and objects related to Smithson's life. However, no one at the time could have predicted that the Smithsonian would eventually "collect" Smithson himself.

The story of how James Smithson's earthly remains came to rest in this country that he had never visited during his lifetime and the plans to memorialize him are the subjects of this site.

Go to "Smithson's Will"


Likeness of James Smithson, by William Ordway Partridge, 1900. Detail from the marble memorial plaque.

This exhibit is based on an unpublished paper: "Smithson's Personal Effects, Proposed Memorial, and Crypt," by Richard E. Stamm, Smithsonian Institution, 1995.
© Smithsonian Institution, 2008