Philosophical Society of Washington

A Special Joseph Henry Memorial Lecture

At Ford's Theater (The first meeting place of the Philosophical Society)

“Frequent Interchange of Ideas and Appreciative Encouragement”

The Role of Scientific Societies in the Life of Joseph Henry

Marc Rothenberg
Curator, Joseph Henry Papers Project, Smithsonian Institution

2076th Meeting Abstract
Monday, May 12, 1997 at 8:00 PM


For Joseph Henry, internationally renowned physicist, leader of the American scientific community, professor at Princeton University, and first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, societies were essential for the progress of science.

Formal or informal, local or national, societies provided scientists the critical judgments and appreciation they needed. This presentation will examine the place of learned societies in the life and career of Henry, and in particular, the place of the Philosophical Society of Washington. Mr. Rothenberg argues that in helping found the Philosophical Society of Washington, Henry attempted to make it the epitome of what a local scientific society should be.

About the Author:

Marc Rothenberg, Curator, Joseph Henry Papers Project, Office of Smithsonian Institution Archives, has been a historian at the Institution since 1975. A specialist in the history of 19th-century American astronomy and physics, Mr. Rothenberg received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Bryn Mawr College. His most recent publication is The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 7: The Smithsonian Years, 1847-1849 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996). Volume 8 of the Papers of Joseph Henry is in press and work has begun on volume 9.

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