Discovery and Revelation: Religion, Science, and Making Sense of Things

March 18, 2022 – March 1, 2023

Monk wearing a neural net

National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor West, Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Gallery Floor Plan

Religious and scientific ideas have influenced each other in surprising ways throughout American history. This interaction of religious ideas with scientific and technological advances are one of the most significant factors in the development of spiritual traditions and communities in the U. S. Discovery and Revelation looks at critical religious and scientific crossroads across three centuries, beginning with a 1721 controversy concerning smallpox and Puritan notions of divine judgement, and ending with encounters of technology and belief in the digital age. Artifacts on view are drawn from the museum's vast collections, ranging from medicine and science objects related to the work of the theologian-chemist Joseph Priestley; technology collections related to Samuel Morse and his telegraph as well as objects illustrating recent research into religion and the brain. Objects on loan from other Smithsonian museums include a portrait of Henrietta Lacks and a letter written by Galileo; the National Library of Medicine is loaning 18th century pamphlets and Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod is on loan from the Franklin Institute with the National Library of Medicine loaning 18th century pamphlets.