Photographs and printed documents concerning Joseph Henry Memorial

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

This series consists of reproductions gathered during the development and fundraising for a memorial in honor of scientist and inventor Joseph Henry . Included are an address given by Bancroft Gherardi, photographs of Henry's inventions use by Gherardi, Henry portraits; letters about him; documentation about the proposed Joseph Henry statue, and photos and material about the unveiling of the statue.
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Administrative History

American physicist Joseph Henry was born on December 17, 1797 in Albany, New York, to poor Scottish immigrants. He spent his formative years with his grandmother in Saratoga County and as a young adult left his home in Galway to attend Albany Academy.

In 1826 Henry began teaching at the Academy as a Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. During his tenure as a teacher in Albany, Henry conducted many of his most important scientific experiments in electromagnetism. He discovered electromagnetic induction and made significant improvements to the electromagnet itself, expanding its usage from that of a "very feeble toy" to a "powerful instrument for use in many different ways." Henry also went on to construct the first electric motor and invent the electric relay, the latter being a crucial component of the electric telegraph.

He married Harriet Alexander in 1830 and had four children. Shortly after marrying, Henry left the Academy for a position at Princeton University, where he experimented in other scientific fields and continued his work in electromagnetism. He was named the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846, selected as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1848 and chosen as President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1868. Henry held these positions until his death in 1878 and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Scope and Content Note

The series contains an address given by Bancroft Gherardi to Albany Academy's alumni association. In the address, Gherardi discusses Henry and the scientific experiments he conducted while in Albany. A number of photographs of Henry's inventions, recreated by Gherardi, accompany the address.

In addition to the address are two portraits of Joseph Henry, two copies of a letter written by Henry's daughter Caroline to Albany Academy, a note written by members of a committee at Albany Academy that talks about the Henry statue the institution planned to build, and two copies of Secretary-Treasurer of the State Museum John M. Clarke's letter to Albany Academy alumni, seeking donations for the creation of the statue. A program detailing the unveiling of the memorial statue and nine photographs of the Henry statue are also included.

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