May
26

Today in Smithsonian History: May 26, 1786

James Smithson 9in cap and gown at Oxford

Photograph of an oil on canvas portrait of James Smithson in cap and gown, while a student at Pembroke College, Oxford, painted by James Roberts (1753 -c.1809) in 1786. The painting was purchased in 1850 from the widow of John Fitall, Smithson’s former servant to whom he had granted an annuity. The original painting is located in the National Portrait Gallery.

May 26, 1786 James Smithson (1765-1829), founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution,  graduates from Pembroke College, Oxford University, where he excelled at chemistry and mineralogy with the degree of Master of Arts. The illegitimate son of Elizabeth Hungerford Keate Macie and Hugh Smithson, 1st Duke of Northumberland, he is  known as James Lewis Macie. He will not change his name to James Smithson until about 1800, after his parents’ deaths.

James Smithson's room at Pembroke College, Oxford University in 1894. Photographer unknown, via Smithsonian Institution Archives,

James Smithson’s room at Pembroke College, Oxford University in 1894. Photographer unknown, via Smithsonian Institution Archives

Pembroke College (Oxford University) founded in 1624. ("UK-2014-Oxford-Pembroke College 04" by Godot13 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Pembroke College (Oxford University) founded in 1624.
(“UK-2014-Oxford-Pembroke College 04” by Godot13 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

etching of Hugh Percy

Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1712 – 1786) Edward Fisher, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, mezzotint, circa 1762-1766.


Posted: 26 May 2017
About the Author:

The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.