I was delighted to read “The Scientist’s Assistant,” about Professor Joseph Henry. He was appointed as the first head (i.e., secretary) of the Smithsonian Institution, as he was considered the foremost scientist in America at the time (1846). In recognition of his distinguished service, there’s a life-size bronze statue of him on the National Mall, in front of the Smithsonian’s Castle headquarters.
As a former member of the Smithsonian Institution National Board, I was — like his assistant Sam Parker on a more literal level — shocked that the latter had served as a human guinea pig in the University’s electrical experiments.
We are all indebted to Julia Grummitt GS for her essay on this courageous minority lab assistant who served long, faithfully, and anonymously, without a bronze statue or so much as a photograph reminding of his service.