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The Man Behind the Smithsonian Institution

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The Man Behind the Smithsonian Institution

Arts & Life

The Man Behind the Smithsonian Institution

The Man Behind the Smithsonian Institution

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1450182/1450183" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

At his death in 1829, English scientist James Smithson left half a million dollars for the establishment of an institution in Washington, D.C. He'd never set foot in the city — or in the United States. NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Nina Burleigh, author of The Stranger and the Statesman, a new book about the mysterious benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution.