Exploring Smithsonian Gardens with Mr. Smithson

Hail-fellow-well-met traveler! I am James Smithson. Money I left to the United States in 1829 founded the Smithsonian Institution. Gardens remind me of my first scientific paper. In 1790, I was newly elected to the prestigious Royal Society in London. Its president, the botanist Joseph Banks, asked me to find out the composition of a mysterious stone found inside bamboo. A stone made by a plant was certainly intriguing! For a year I tried 60 separate scientific tests and discovered that the stone was silica, like quartz. My paper was a success and prompted more studies of how plants use minerals from the soil. When I am in a garden, I remember that work and think of the many scientists behind the scenes, studying the natural world to provide information for us, which enhances what we see. Let’s explore our Smithsonian Gardens, a museum without walls, and link these gardens with the Smithsonian’s many research facilities to learn more about the world around us. Follow me: 8 stops and 8 surprises ahead!

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