In the archives of the American Lighthouse Foundation is a book titled
A Memorial of Joseph Henry, published in 1880 by order of the Congress
of the United States and a fragile pamphlet titled Biographical Memoir of
Joseph Henry. The 514-page book was published as a memorial to honor
I briefly glanced at the book and pamphlet when they came into the collection of the archives, but as often happens, I soon forgot about them as I got involved in other projects.
It wasn’t until the winter of 2004 that my memory was jogged when I saw a story by Cheryl Shelton-Roberts about Joseph Henry in the Lighthouse News, the publication of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society.
I keep harping that one can learn more about the early history of the United States of America by studying lighthouses in-depth, than from any other single source and this is so evident by studying the life of this amazing individual.
If you are a Smithsonian buff or work at the Smithsonian, you probably know of Joseph Henry. But, my guess is that most Americans have never heard of him and very few lighthouse aficionados know of him. He served with the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment from 1852-1878. During the last seven years of this period, he acted as chairman of the Lighthouse Board.
Henry, probably the most famous scientist of his time, served with the Lighthouse Service, as a personal favor to President Millard Fillmore.
I’m not going into the details of his life here. Instead, I want to encourage you to spend a little time to research on this man in your library or in the internet. You’ll be amazed at what you will find about this great man, a lighthouse man who helped make our nation the great country that it is today.
This story appeared in the
November 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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