About the Program
Historian Heather Ewing recounts the life of James Smithson, the benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution. Mr. Smithson was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland and made his name in the field of science. Upon his death in 1829 he left his fortune to create "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men" in Washington, D.C. He left no further instructions and to this day it is not known why he made this request as he had never set foot in the United States. The Smithsonian Institution was founded on August 10, 1846 after great debate in Congress as to how to use Smithson's gift.