As a student in Albany in the 1820s, Joseph Henry received an unusually broad scientific education. He began as a medical student, shifted his goals to engineering, and finally became a teacher of mathematics and natural philosophy at Albany Academy, where he had first attended school. His wide research on electromagnetism included studies on the structure of currents that rivaled the work of Michael Faraday in England. In 1832, Henry moved to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), where he lectured on physics, mathematics, chemistry, mineralogy, geology, astronomy, and architecture.

In 1846, Henry was appointed first Secretary of the new Smithsonian Institution. Henry actively supported a program of research and publication to promote the Smithsonian's mandate of "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." His efforts to collect and interpret meteorological data led to the creation of the United States Weather Bureau. In addition, through organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, he worked to establish professional standards in all scientific fields. Mathew Brady photographed Joseph Henry in Washington in the early 1860s.

Joseph Henry
1797 - 1878
Mathew Brady Studio
Albumen silver print
(carte de visite), circa 1862
8.6 x 5.3 cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 inches)
National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C.