Jeff Bezos donates $200 million to Smithsonian to renovate Air and Space Museum, build new education center

Bezos gave a speech at the National Air and Space Museum in 2016 and has contributed to the Smithsonian before

Jeff Bezos made the largest donation to the Smithsonian since the museum was first founded, giving $70 million to renovate the National Air and Space Museum and $130 million to build a new education complex. 

The Blue Origin CEO, who plans to go to space himself in just a matter of days, has contributed to the Air and Space Museum in the past and gave a lecture there on space history in 2016. 

"Every child is born with great potential, and it’s inspiration that unlocks that potential," Bezos said in a statement upon announcing the donation. "My love affair with science, invention and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others."

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Blue Origin was approved Monday to carry humans into space ahead of Jeff Bezos’ scheduled flight later this month. Photo credit: Getty images / AP (Getty images / AP)

The new education complex, which will be named the Bezos Learning Center, will have programs and activities for students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. 

"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," Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch said Wednesday. 

Bezos, who stepped down as CEO of Amazon earlier this month to transition to Executive Chairman of the company's board, is the richest man in the world with a net worth of $210.5 billion, according to Forbes

He topped the Chronicle of Philanthropy's list of biggest donors in 2020, giving $10 billion to start the Bezos Earth Fund and $100 million to Feeding America.

MacKenzie Scott, Bezos's ex-wife, came in at number two on that list, giving $5.7 billion last year to "food banks, human-service organizations, and racial-justice charities."

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Bezos is set to launch into space aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket on July 20, along with his brother Mark Bezos, female aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, and a mystery $28 million auction winner. He'll be the second billionaire in space after Richard Branson reached an altitude of more than 50 miles on a Virgin Galactic ship Sunday.