James smithson c1765 1829 the founding donor of the smithsonian was an english chemist and mineralogist he was the illegitimate son of hugh smithson the first duke of northumberland and elizabeth hungerford keate macie a wealthy widow who was a cousin of the duchess of northumberland. Smithson did not explain his bequest in his public or private writingssmithsons motives in leaving money to the united states are unknown he drafted his own will following the guidance in this book when james smithson died in 1829 press and public on both sides of the atlantic were startled by the rather unusual provision in his will. In genoa italy english scientist james smithson dies after a long illness leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote in the event that his only nephew died without any heirs smithson . Founded by the bequest of james smithson an english scientist smithson who died in 1829 had stipulated in his will that should his nephew and heir himself die without issue his remaining assets would pass to the united states and be used to found the smithsonian institution the nephew died
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