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SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION. In a former number of this Journal we inserted an abstract of the second annual report of the learned Secretary of the Institution, Dr. Joseph Henry. It is due to the cause of science that we should present more full statements respecting the nature and operations of this Institution, which the Secretary says "is designed to endure as long as our government shall exist,” and the grand purpose of which is certainly one of the noblest within the reach of human effort—"the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."
“JAMES Smithson, Esq., of England, left his property in trust to the United States of America, to found at Washington an institution which should bear his own name, and have for its objects "the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." This trust was accepted by the government of the United States, and an act of Congress was passed August 10, 1846, constituting the President and the other principal executive officers of the general government, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Mayor of Washington, and such other persons as they might elect honorary members, an establishment under the name of the "SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, FOR THE INCREASE AND DIFFUSION OF KNOWLEDGE AMONG MEN.” The members and honorary members of this establishment are to hold stated and special meetings for the supervision of the affairs of the Institution, and for the advice and instruction of a Board of Regents, to whom the financial and other affairs are intrusted.
The Board of Regents consists of three members ex-officio of the establishment, namely, the Vice President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Mayor of Washington, together with twelve other members, three of whom are appointed by the Senate from its own body, three by the House of Representatives from its members, and six citizens appointed by a joint resolution of both houses. To this board is given the power of electing a Secretary and other officers, for conducting the active operations of the Institution.
The Act of Congress establishing the Institution, directs, as a part of the plan of organization, the formation of a Library, a Museum, and a Gallery of Art, together with provisions for physical research and popular lectures, while it leaves to the Regents the power of adopting such other parts of an organization as they may deem best suited to promote the objects of the bequest.
After much deliberation, the Regents resolved to divide the annual income into two equal parts-one part to be devoted to the increase and diffusion of knowledge by means of original research and publications—the other half of the income to be applied, in accordance with ihe requirements of the Act of Congress, to the gradual formation of a Library, a Museum, and a Gallery of Art."
The following is the PROGRAMME OF ORGANIZATION, as presented by the Secretary, Professor Henry, to the Board of Regents, and adopted December 13, 1847.
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS WHICH SHOULD SERVE AS A GUIDE IN A DOPTING A
PLAN OF ORGANIZATION.
1. WILL OF SMITHSON. The property is bequeathed to the United States of America, “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."
2. The bequest is for the benefit of mankind. The government of the United States is merely a trustee to carry out the design of the testator.
3. The Institution is not a national establishment, as is frequently supposed, but the establishment of an individual, and is to bear and perpetuate his name.
4. The objects of the Institution are—1st, to increase, and 2d, to diffuse knowledge among men.
5. These two objects should not be confounded with one another. The first is to increase the existing stock of knowledge by the addition of new truths; and the second to disseminate knowledge, thus increased, among men.
6. The will makes no restriction in favour of any particular kind of knowledge; hence all branches are entitled to a share of attention.
7. Knowledge can be increased by different methods of facilitating and promoting the discovery of new truths, and can be most efficiently diffused among men by means of the press.
8. To effect the greatest amount of good, the organization should be such as to enable the Institution to produce results in the way of increasing and diffusing knowledge, which cannot be produced by the existing institutions in our country.
9. The organization should also be such as can be adopted provisionally, can be easily reduced to practice, receive modifications, or be abandoned, in whole or in part, without a sacrifice of the funds.
10. In order to make up for the loss of time occasioned by the delay of eight years in establishing the Institution, a considerable portion of the inte. rest which has accrued should be added to the principal.
11. In proportion to the wide field of knowledge to be cultivated, the funds are small. Economy should therefore be consulted in the construction of the building; and not only should the first cost of the edifice be considered, but also the continual expense of keeping it in repair, and of the support of the establishment necessarily connected with it. There should also be but few individuals permanently supported by the Institution.
12. The plan and dimensions of the building should be determined by the plan of organization, and not the converse.
13. It should be recollected that mankind in general are to be benefited by the bequest, and that, therefore, all unnecessary expenditure on local objects would be a perversion of the trust.
14. Besides the foregoing considerations, deduced immediately from the will of Smithson, regard must be had to certain requirements of the act of Congress establishing the Institution. These are a library, a museum, and a gallery of art, with a building on a liberal scale to contain them.
SECTION I. Plan of organization of the Institution, in accordance with the foregoing deductions
from the will of Smithson. To Increase KNOWLEDGE. It is proposed1. To stimulate men of talent to make original researches, by offering suitable rewards for memoirs containing new truths; and,
2. To appropriate annually a portion of the income for particular researches, under the direction of suitable persons.
To Diffuse KNOWLEDGE. It is proposed
1. To publish a series of periodical reports on the progress of the different branches of knowledge; and, 2. To publish occasionally separate treatises on subjects of general interest.
DETAILS OF THE PLAN TO INCREASE KNOWLEDGE. I. By stimulating researches. 1. Rewards offered for original memoirs on all branches of knowledge.
2. The memoirs thus obtained to be published in a series of volumes, in a qoarto form, and entitled “Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge.”
3. No memoir, on subjects of physical science, to be accepted for publication, which does not furnish a positive addition to human knowledge resting on original research; and all unverified speculations to be rejected.
4. Each memoir presented to the Institution to be submitted for examination to a commission of persons of reputation for learning in the branch to which the memoir pertains, and to be accepted for publication only in case the report of this commission is favourable.
5. The commission to be chosen by the officers of the institution, and the name of the author, as far as practicable, concealed; unless a favourable decision be made.
6. The volumes of the memoirs to be exchanged for the transactions of literary and scientific societies, and copies to be given to all the colleges and principal libraries in this country. One part of the remaining copies may be offered for sale, and the other carefully preserved, to form complete sets of the volume, to supply the demand from new institutions.
7. An abstract, or popular account of the contents of these memoirs to be given to the public through the annual report of the Regents to Congress.
II. By appropriating a portion of the income, annually, to special objects of research, under the direction of suitable persons.
1. The objects, and the amount appropriated, to be recommended by counsellors of the institution.
2. Appropriations in different years to different objects; so that, in course of time, each branch of knowledge may receive a share.
3. The results obtained from these appropriations to be published, with the memoirs before-mentioned, in the volumes of the Smithsonian contributions to knowledge.
4. Examples of objects for which appropriations may be made.
(1.) System of extended meteorological observations, particularly with refe. rence to the phenomena of American storms.
(2.) Explorations in descriptive natural history, and geological, magnetical, and topographical surveys, to collect materials for the formation of a Physical Atlas of ihe United States.
(3.) Solution of experimental problems, such as a new determination of the weight of the earth, of the velocity of electricity, and of light; chemical analyses of soils and plants; collection and publication of articles of science, accumulated in the offices of government.
(4.) Institution of statistical inquiries with reference to physical, moral, and political subjects.
(5.) Historical researches, and accurate surveys of places celebrated in American history:
(6.) Ethnological researches, particularly with reference to the different races of men in North America; also, explorations and accurate surveys of the mounds and other remains of the ancient people of our country.
VOL. III. -SEPT., 1849. 7
DETAILS OF THE PLAN FOR DIFFUSING KNOWLEDGE. I. By the publication of a series of reports, giving an account of the new discoveries in science, and of the changes made from year to year in all branches of knowledge not strictly professional.
1. These reports will diffuse a kind of knowledge generally interesting, but which, at present, is inaccessible to the public. Some of the reports may be published annually, others at longer intervals, as the income of the Institu. tion, or the changes in the branches of knowledge may indicate.
2. The reports are to be prepared by collaborators, eminent in the different branches of knowledge.
3. Each collaborator to be furnished with the journals and publications, do. mestic and foreign, necessary to the compilation of his report, to be paid a certain sum for his labours, and to be named on the title-page of the report.
(4.) The reports to be published in separate parts, so that persons interested in a particular branch can procure the parts relating to it, without purchasing the whole.
(5.) These reports may be presented to Congress, for partial distribution; the remaining copies to be given to literary and scientific institutions, and sold to individuals for a moderate price.
The following are some of the subjects that may be embraced in the reports:
I. PHYSICAL CLASS.
1. Physics, including astronomy, natural philosophy, chemistry, and meteorology.
2. Natural history, including botany, zoology, geology, &c.
II. MORAL AND POLITICAL CLASS. 5. Ethnology, including particular history, comparative philology, antiquities, &c. 6. Statistics and political economy. 7. Mental and moral philosophy. 8. A survey of the political events of the world, penal reform, &c. 9. Modern literature. 10. The fine arts, and their application to the useful arts. 11. Bibliography 12. Obituary notices of distinguished individuals.
II. By the publication of separate trealises on subjects of general interest. 1. These treatises may occasionally consist of valuable memoirs, translated from foreign languages, or of articles prepared under the direction of the Institution, or procured by offering premiums for the best exposition of a given subject.
2. The treatises should in all cases be submitted to a commission of competent judges previous to their publication.
3. As examples of these treatises, expositions may be obtained of the present state of the several branches of knowledge mentioned in the table of re. ports. Also of the following subjects, suggested by the Committee on Organization, namely, the statistics of labour, the productive arts of life, public instruction, &c.
SECTION II. Plan of organization, in accordance with the terms of the resolutions of the Board
of Regents, providing for the two modes of increasing and diffusing knowledge.
1. The act of Congress, establishing the institution, contemplated the formation of a library and a museum; and the Board of Regents, including
these objects in the plan of organization, resolved to divide the income into two equal parts.
2. One part to be appropriated to increase and diffuse knowledge by means of publications and researches, agreeably to the scheme before given. The other part to be appropriated to the formation of a library and a collection of objects of nature and of art.
3. These two plans are not incompatible with one another.
4. To carry out the plan before described, a library will be required, conbisting, 1st, of a complete collection of the transactions and proceedings of all the learned societies in the world; 2d, of the more important current periodical publications, and other works necessary in preparing the periodical reports.
5. The institution should make special collections, particularly of objects to verify its own publications.
6. Also a collection of instruments of research in all branches of experimental science.
7. With reference to the collection of books, other than those mentioned above, catalogues of all the different libraries in the United States should be procured, in order that the valuable books first purchased may be such as are not to be found in the United States.
8. Also catalogues of memoirs, and of books in foreign libraries, and other materials, should be collected for rendering the institution a centre of bibliographical knowledge, whence the student may be directed to any work which he may require.
9. It is believed that the collections in natural history will increase by donation as rapidly as the income of the institution can make provision for their reception, and therefore it will seldom be necessary to purchase any articles of this kind.
10. Attempts should be made to procure for the gallery of arts casts of the most celebrated articles of ancient and modern sculpture.
11. The arts may be encouraged by providing a room free of expense, for the exhibition of the objects of the Art Union and other similar societies.
12. A small appropriation should annually be made for models of antiquities, such as those of the remains of ancient temples, &c.
13. For the present, or until the building is fully completed, besides the Secretary; no permanent assistant will be required, except one to act as librarian.
14. The duty of the Secretary will be the general superintendence, with the advice of the Chancellor and other members of the establishment, of the literary and scientific operations of the institution; to give to the Regents annually an account of all ihe transactions; of the memoirs which have been received for publication; of the researches which have been made; and to edit, with the assistance of the librarian, the publications of the institution.
15. The duty of the assistant secretary, acting as librarian, will be, for the present, 10 assist in taking charge of the collections, to select and purchase, under the direction of the secretary and a committee of the board, books and catalogues, and to procure the information before mentioned ; to give information on plans of libraries, and to assist the Secretary in editing the publications of the institution, and in the other duties of his office.
16. The Secretary and his assistants, during the session of Congress, will be required to illustrate new discoveries in science, and to exhibit new objects of art; also, distinguished individuals should be invited to give lectures on subjects of general interest.
17. When the building is completed, and wher, in accordance with the Act of Congress, the charge of the national museum is given to the Smithsonian lostitution, other assistants will be required.