James Smithson (1764-1829)

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James Smithson, MA, FRS (ca. 1765 – 27 June 1829) was an English chemist and mineralogist. He was the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution.Smithson was the illegitimate child of the 1st Duke of Northumberland, and was born secretly in Paris, as James Lewis Macie. Eventually he was naturalized in England and he attended college, studying chemistry and mineralogy. At the age of twenty-two, he changed his surname from Macie to Smithson, his father's surname. Smithson traveled extensively throughout Europe publishing papers about his findings. Considered an amateur in his field, Smithson maintained an inheritance he acquired from his mother and other relatives. He was never married and had no children, therefore, when he wrote his will he left his estate to his nephew, or his nephew's family if his nephew died before Smithson. If his nephew was to die without a family, Smithson's will stipulated that he would donate his estate to the founding of an educational institution in Washington, D.C., in the United States. His nephew died and could not claim to be the recipient of his estate; therefore, Smithson became the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He never visited the United States.

Source: dbpedia

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