Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos will donate $200 million to the Smithsonian, the largest gift in the history of the institute, a statement said Wednesday.
A $70 million portion of the donation will support the renovation of the National Air and Space Museum while $130 million will launch a new education center to be named after the world’s wealthiest person.
The Bezos Learning Center will be housed in a new facility to be constructed on the National Mall, and will feature programs and activities to inspire students to pursue science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
“Since its inception, the Smithsonian has benefited from both federal funding and the generosity of visionary donors,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch.
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“This historic gift will help the Smithsonian achieve its goal of reaching every classroom in America by creating a world-class learning center with access and inspiration at its heart.”
“The Smithsonian plays a vital role in igniting the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers,” added Bezos, who is set to fly to space on Blue Origin’s first crewed rocket launch on July 20.
“Every child is born with great potential, and it’s inspiration that unlocks that potential. My love affair with science, invention and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others.”
Bezos, who has an estimated net worth of $212 billion according to Forbes, has a long history of supporting the Smithsonian.
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He was a founding donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and has previously contributed to the National Air and Space Museum.
He also has strong ties to the nation’s capital, with a mansion in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood, as well as owning the Washington Post newspaper.
Established in 1846, the Smithsonian Institute is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex.
Named after its founder, the British scientist James Smithson, it is funded through federal appropriations, gifts, its own revenue-generating activities and philanthropy.
In 2000, late real estate tycoon Kenneth Behring donated $80 million to the Smithsonian, then its biggest single gift ever.