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This review is from: The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian (Hardcover)
Excellent biography, piecing together what is known about the guy who provided a huge gift to found the Smithsonian, without ever having set foot in the USA. The Smithsonian had originally collected all of Smithson's papers, but they were destroyed in a fire before any serious scholarship. The author traveled through Europe collecting what could be found in original sources elsewhere, and paints a compelling portrait of an eccentric with a love of science and some unusual ideas. If you like 17th century types and the whole revolutionary milieu, this is a good read.