Joseph Henry (December 17, 1797 – May 13, 1878) was born in Albany, New York, to William and Ann Henry, two immigrants from Scotland. “In 1819 he was persuaded by some influential friends to pursue a more academic career, he entered Albany Academy, where he was given free tuition. He was so poor, even with free tuition, Joseph Henry had to support himself with teaching and private tutoring positions.”
Henry excelled academically. He “discovered the electromagnetic phenomenon of self-inductance,” which I shan’t attempt to explain, but it’s a big deal.
After teaching at the precursor of Princeton University, and excelling as a scientist, he became the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, always working “tirelessly to support the field of American science.”
“Henry focused the Smithsonian on research, publications, and international exchanges. The system of international exchanges begins in 1849, with the Smithsonian providing a clearinghouse function for the exchange of literary and scientific works between societies and individuals in this country and abroad. Also by 1849, he created a program to study weather patterns in North America, a project that eventually led to the creation of the National Weather Service.”
The Albany (NY) School District science fair is named after Joseph Henry.
See the glass window? I view it almost every week, as it is a Tiffany creation, found in the Assembly Hall of First Presbyterian Church of Albany. Mr. Henry was baptized in the church, albeit in an earlier building.
Here is a memoir of Joseph Henry by Simon Newcomb, read in 1880, shortly after his death in his quarters in the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, DC.