“I then bequeath the whole of my property…to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.” James Smithson, English chemist and mineralogist, 1826
Kuiper is posing in front of the National Air and Space Museum, one of the 19 Smithsonian museums. Did you know that the founder of the #Smithsonian never visited the United States while he was still alive? He was an Englishman who left his fortune to his nephew, with the contingency that if his nephew were to die without children, that the money would then go to the US.
That’s exactly what ended up happening, and in 1835 over 100,000 gold coins were boxed up and shipped over here. As is tradition, Congress was somewhat bewildered and fought over what to do with the money. FOR OVER TEN YEARS. Eventually, in 1846, an Act of Congress established the Institution, to be managed by a Board of Regents and a Secretary.
The story gets weirder. In 1904, Alexander Graham Bell (yeah, the telephone guy, and one of the aforementioned Regents) travelled to Italy to dig up Smithson’s body. Mrs. Bell took pictures of this & they are available online. 😮 Smithson’s remains (along with 16 crates full of Italian marble crypt) were brought to the US. The hope was that Congress would fund a large memorial, but it was not approved. Thus they remodeled a janitor’s closet into a crypt and reinterred him in 1905.
In 1973, the building curator waited till his boss was out of town and dug him up again because ghosts?? He managed to accidentally catch the coffin on fire in the process, too. Yikes. After some lab tests on his body (naturally), Smithson was reburied for the last time, and you can still visit him in his crypt at the “Castle” in DC. What do you think of all this?
Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXW0RnfgmJ3/