Particle and Planet


We’re going to be at the Smithsonian today, but I really like this quotation from the founder of the Smithsonian, James Smithson (Scotsman, 1765-1829). It’s a neat encapsulation of the Hermetic philosophy, among other things, and a clear sign of his generosity to another nation of which he knew almost nothing:

Every man is a valuable member of his society who, by his observations, researches, and experiments, procures knowledge for men… It is in his knowledge that man has found his greatness and his happiness, the high superiority which he holds over the other animals who inhabit the earth with him, and consequently no ignorance is probably without loss to him, no error without evil… The particle and the planet are subject to the same laws, and what is learned of one will be known of the other… I bequeath the whole of my property… To the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.

update: I love the Smithsonian for a number of reasons. I got $200 worth of books for my classroom today, at a teacher discount. I got to turn the crank of a cotton ‘gin for the first time. I got to see the two Bibles that Jefferson cut up to make his “Jefferson Bible”, and 3-D stereographs of civil war battlefields. It all contributes to human knowledge and my own deepening

update 2: I’m watching an African-American woman ia 1960s style dress explain the Greensboro Lunch Counter, and how to train yourself to run a peaceful protest, to a crew of Muslim girls all in uniform from a middle school. There’s also a crew from a Christian academy. And they’re discussing civil rights. This is why I love the Smithsonian.

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