Science: Scientific Grandpa

The Smithsonian Institution, custodian of the nation's giraffes and Rembrandts, collector of historic aircraft and coffee mills, and authority on bugs, fish and Indians, last week was celebrating its centennial. It was a good occasion also for recalling its little-known founder: James Smithson, an Englishman who never saw the U.S.

In the 1760s, Sir Hugh Smithson, Duke of Northumberland, took up with Elizabeth Keate Macie, reputed descendant of Henry VII. One result: a son, James Smithson, who became a leading chemist, but because of the bar sinister never a duke. Wrote he: "On my father's side I am a Northumberland, on my...

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