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What Was James Smithson Doing in the Kitchen & Classroom?
James Smithson was an 18th century English chemist, geologist, and mineralogist – and also the founder of the Smithsonian Institution. Most of what we know about Smithson’s science comes from his twenty-six published articles, which Steven Turner studied in his recent book, The Science of James Smithson (Smithsonian Books, 2020). Turner argues persuasively that Smithson was much more accomplished than previously thought. And he shows that Smithson made important contributions to a wide range of scientific fields, including: chemistry, mineralogy, geology, botany, electricity, and even meteorology.

One of the surprises of Turner’s study was the extent to which Smithson’s scientific writings also offer clues about his personal interests and beliefs. In this year’s Dibner Library Lecture, Turner will dig deeper into some of the lesser-known tales of Smithson’s work, like how Smithson’s interest in cooking helped him solve a scientific puzzle. He’ll also discuss the unexpected story of Smithson’s interest in scientific education – a lifelong interest that may have led to the founding of the Smithsonian.

Dec 1, 2021 05:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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