Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Edward Lurie

Second Advisor

Alfred H. Kelly


These pages deal with the post-Civil War emergence in Washington of a self-conscious body of government-scientists and local intellectuals, men whose group identity was established by the network of clubs and societies which they founded and whose self-image was derived from an awareness of shared purposes. This community saw itself as fulfilling two inseparable functions: improving the quality of life at the seat of government by encouraging intellectual pursuits, and using its collective influence to promote national culture, particularly through public science. The interrelationship of these goals rested on the conviction that Washington was destined to become the cultural capitol of the nation. By the end of the nineteenth century, with its skeletal structure the Washington Academy of Sciences, this body stood fully formed. The circumstances of its birth and early growth comprise the story I have tried to tell.