Joseph Henry (1797-1878) is widely considered the foremost American scientist of the
19th century. Although Henry at an early age appeared to be headed for a career in
the theater, a chance encounter with a book of lectures on scientific topics turned
his interest to science. Henry's early investigations concerned electromagnetic
phenomena, and his discovery of electromagnetic self-induction in 1831 established
his reputation in America. Interestingly, Henry appears to have discovered the principle
of electromagnetic induction independently of British scientist Michael Faraday, but
because Faraday published his results before Henry, he is credited with the discovery.
In 1846 Henry was named first Secretary of the newly-established Smithsonian Institution,
a position he held until his death. In 1868 he was elected President of the Academy; this
position, too, he held until his death.
More Information Available: