James Smithson and the Founding of the Smithsonian
Smithson, the illegitimate child of a wealthy Englishman, had traveled much during his life, but had never once set foot on American soil. Why, then, would he decide to give the entirety of his sizable estate—which totaled half a million dollars, or 1/66 of the United States’ entire federal budget at the time—to a country that was foreign to him?
Some speculate it was because he was denied his father’s legacy. Others argue that he was inspired by the United States’ experiment with democracy. Some attribute his philanthropy to ideals inspired by such organizations as the Royal Institution, which was dedicated to using scientific knowledge to improve human conditions. Smithson never wrote about or discussed his bequest with friends or colleagues, so we are left to speculate on the ideals and motivations of a gift that has had such significant impact on the arts, humanities, and sciences in the United States.
Visitors can pay homage to Smithson with a visit to his crypt, located on the first floor of the Smithsonian Castle.
Program Note: In May, some parents were shocked by what their children really thought about race. So now, what are they doing about it? All this week, “AC360°” revisits the doll study to see how children view race. Don’t miss “Black or White, Kids on Race,” all this week at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.
To Iceland’s Prime Minister, Fisheries Minister, and all members of the Icelandic government:
“As citizens from around the world, we are horrified by the continuing whale hunt in Iceland. We urge you to use this opportunity to end whale hunting permanently, and to champion greater protection for whales worldwide.”
It’s sickening. They just shot her with an exploding harpoon, hacked the foetus out of her, and trashed it. She was just one of 125 endangered fin whales Icelandic millionaire Kristjan Loftsson killed this year.
Fin whales are awe-inspiring — capable of communicating through song, feeling love and deep emotional suffering. Loftsson is the last man on the planet still slaughtering these gentle giants for profit – often while they’re pregnant.
But finally we can stop him.
Right now, Iceland’s new government is considering ending whaling, but they could face a mountain of backlash from the tycoon and his whaling lobby. It’s up to us to show them the whole world supports a ban!
Sign now before a decision is made, and when we reach 1 million signatures, Avaaz will poll the rapidly shifting public opinion in Iceland and plaster the country with our call.