7. Joseph Henry Statue


Statues of Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Henry, created by Daniel Chester French, flank the old front entrance of Palmer Hall. 

Like Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Henry was a largely self-educated man who became one of the greatest American scientists of his era.  As one of the first to study the field of electromagnetism, Henry deduced the property of self-inductance, and his name is immortalized as the unit of inductance measurement—the “henry.”  In 1832, Henry was named professor of natural philosophy (physics) at Princeton, where he rigged up the first telegraph line between his laboratory in Philosophical Hall to his campus home so that he could signal when he was ready for lunch.  Samuel Morse later consulted with Henry and used his scientific papers to build his own apparatus. 

While at Princeton, Henry continued his electrical experiments and also studied sound, capillary action and ballistics, even as he lectured in subjects such as chemistry, geology, mineralogy, astronomy and architecture.  In 1844, Henry helped investigate a deadly cannon explosion during a demonstration aboard the new U.S.S. Princeton, the most technologically advanced warship of its time, and his inquiries led him to explore the subject of molecular cohesion.  Henry left Princeton in 1846 to become the first secretary of the recently-created Smithsonian Institution, where his enormous energy and intelligence were channeled into driving forward both the organization and the very course of American science.

  • To learn more about Joseph Henry, please see quotation #39, and Café Vivian picture #83.

  • To learn more about the history of science at Princeton, see icon #2, 5, and 6, quotation #9, 27, 34, and 39, and Café Vivian picture #14, 15, 22, 25, 32, 35, 41, 43, 51, 64, 75, 78, 83, 87, 90, 114, and 131.