5 Facts About the Smithsonian Institute

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Aug. 10 is the anniversary of the founding of the Smithsonian Institute. So in honor of that, we present five things to know about the Smithsonian Institute.

Information from the institute's archives.

  • 1846—On Aug. 10, 1846, the Smithsonian Institute was officially founded through legislation.
  • Congressional Legislation—Congress passed specific legislation, which created the institute to increase and diffuse knowledge, according to the information about it.
  • Polk—It was President James K. Polk who signed the legislation into law concerning the Smithsonian Institute.
  • Decades of Debate—The legislation itself was the culmination of decades of debate concerning a will left by James Smithson about the desire to have an institute diffusing knowledge.
  • James Smithson—The English chemist and mineralogist, who died in 1829, said that if his sole heir died without heirs, he wanted to leave his estate to the United States for the purpose of creating a Smithsonian Institute for dissemination of knowledge.


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