James Smithson, was an English chemist and mineralogist. He was the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithson was the illegitimate child of the 1st Duke of North umber land, and was born secretly in Paris, on an unknown date, possibly in the Pentemont Abbey,as Jacques-Louis Macie (later altered to James Louis).
Eventually, he was naturalized in England and attended university, studying chemistry and mineralogy at Pembroke College, Oxford.
At the age of twenty-two, he changed his surname from Macie to Smithson, his father’s pre-marriage surname. Smithson traveled extensively throughout Europe publishing papers about his findings. Considered a talented amateur in his field, Smithson maintained an inheritance he acquired from his mother and other relatives.