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Discovery and Revelation

Religious and scientific ideas have influenced each other in surprising ways throughout American history.

Daily, Now - Mar 31, 2023. Starting: 10:00 AM

One of the most significant factors in the development of spiritual traditions in the United States has been the interaction of religious ideas and communities with the scientific and technological advances that have shaped every generation. Religious and scientific ideas have influenced each other in surprising ways throughout our history; exploring these influences will provide a view of Americans as a spiritually seeking, scientifically experimenting, and endlessly curious people. 

This exhibition will look at the intersections of religion and science from three centuries of American history, beginning with a 1721 controversy concerning smallpox and Puritan notions of divine judgement, and ending with encounters of technology and belief in the digital age. Artifacts on view will be drawn from across the museum's collecting areas and range from medicine and science objects related to the work of the theologian-chemist Joseph Priestley; technology collections related to Samuel Morse and his telegraph as well as objects illustrating recent research into religion and the brain.

Objects on loan from other Smithsonian museums include a portrait of Henrietta Lacks and a letter written by Galileo; the National Library of Medicine is loaning 18th century pamphlets and Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod is on loan from the Franklin Institute. 

Opens March 18, 2022; Closes March 31, 2023.


1300 Constitution Ave, NW.
Washington, DC 20560
United States


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