In GHOST IMAGE, photojournalist Sophie Medina has been hired by an editor who works for the Smithsonian Institution’s publication division to take photographs for a book on the history of the National Mall. On her way out of the Castle she passes by a small room which holds the crypt of the museum’s founder, James Smithson. Later she returns to the Castle when she realizes her editor might know a key piece of information that will lead her to a 200 year old botanical treasure that Sophie believes was the reason Brother Kevin Boyle, a Franciscan friar who was her good friend and a well-known environmentalist, was murdered on the grounds of the Franciscan monastery in Washington, D.C.
The story of James Smithson and the founding of the Smithsonian Institution is fascinating. Smithson (1765-1829), a British chemist and the illegitimate child of the 1st Duke of Northumberland, was born secretly in Paris as Jacques-Louis Macie. Later he changed his name to “James Louis” and took Smithson, his father’s pre-marriage surname, as his own surname. Single and childless, Smithson left his estate–which included an inheritance from his mother and assorted relatives–to a nephew. However when the nephew predeceased him, Smithson’s will stipulated that the money should be used to found an educational institution in the United States, in spite of having never visited the country.
The fact that Smithson didn’t specify what should be done with the considerable donation led to years of infighting and wrangling in Congress . . . and the reason why Smithson left his money to America remains a mystery.