Scientist James Smithson’s donation of half a million dollars to the USA in 1835 enabled the formation of the Smithsonian Institute, now one of the foremost cultural institutions in the world. What was unusual about the circumstances of the donation?

Answer: Smithson was British, and had never been to the United States. In fact, he barely mentioned the country to his friends and acquaintances during his lifetime. The reason behind why he chose to donate the sum remains a mystery.

Source: The Stranger and the Statesman by Nina Burleigh

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