The Franklin Institute (named after the noted American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin) is a museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the oldest centers of science education and development in the United States, dating to 1824. The Institute also houses the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.
Front steps as seen from the adjacent Moore College
On February 5, 1824, Samuel Vaughn Merrick and William H. Keating founded The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts. The museum began in 1825 in its original building at 15 South 7th Street (now the site of the Atwater Kent Museum) and moved into its current home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near that parkway's intersection with 20th Street, over 100 years later, in 1934. Funds to build the new Institute and Memorial on the Parkway came from the Poor Richard Club, the City Board of Trust, the Benjamin Franklin Memorial, Inc., and The Franklin Institute. John T. Windrim's original design was a completely square building surrounding the Benjamin Franklin Statue, which had yet to be built. Despite the effects of the Great Depression, the Benjamin Franklin Memorial, Inc. raised $5 million between December 1929 and June 1930. Only two of the four wings envisioned by Windrim were built. The Franklin Institute was integrated in 1870, when Philadelphia teacher and activist Octavius Catto was admitted as a member.
Many scientists have demonstrated groundbreaking new technology at The Franklin Institute. From September 2 to October 11, 1884, it hosted the International Electrical Exhibition of 1884, the first great electrical exposition in the United States. Nikola Tesla demonstrated the principle of wireless telegraphy at the institute in 1893. The world's first public demonstration of an all-electronic television system was later given by Philo Taylor Farnsworth on August 25, 1934.
On March 31, 1940, press agent William Castellini issued a press release stating that the world would end the next day. The story was picked up by KYW, which reported, "Your worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world will end at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. This is no April Fool joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger, director of the Fels Planetarium of this city." This caused a panic in the city which only subsided when The Franklin Institute assured people it had made no such prediction. Castellini was dismissed shortly thereafter.
Succession of presidents
- James Ronaldson (1824 1852)
- Samuel V. Merrick (1852 1854)
- John C. Cresson (1855 1863)
William Sellers (1864 1867)
- John Vaughan Merrick (1868 1869)
- Coleman Sellers (1870 1875)
- Robert Empie Rogers (1875 1879)
- William Penn Tatham (1880 1886)
- Joseph Miller Wilson (1887 1893)
- Dr. Walton Clark (1907 1924)
- Dr. W. Laurence LePage
- Dr. Bowen C. Dees
- Dr. Athelstan F. Spilhaus (1966 1969)
- Dr. Joel N. Bloom (1969 1990)
- Dr. Dennis M. Wint (1995 present)
In 2006, The Franklin Institute began fundraising activities for the Inspire Science! capital campaign, a $64.7 million campaign intended to fund the construction of a 53,000 square foot building addition, new exhibits, and upgrades and renovations to the existing Institute building and exhibits.
In 2011, The Franklin Institute received a $10 million gift from Athena and Nicholas Karabots towards the Inspire Science! capital campaign. This gift is the largest gift in the Institute's history, and put The Franklin Institute within $6 million of the $64.7 million capital campaign goal. The Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion will house not only a $10 million multiroom exhibit on neuroscience, but also a conference center, classroom space, and additional room for traveling exhibitions.
The Science Center
The most recognizable part of The Franklin Institute's Science Center is The Franklin Institute Science Museum. In the spirit of inquiry and discovery embodied by Benjamin Franklin, the mission of The Franklin Institute Science Museum serves to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology learning. Among other exhibits, The Science Museum holds the largest collection of artifacts from the Wright brothers' workshop.
The newly refurbished Giant Heart
Electricity, which replaced Franklin...He's Electric in 2010, showcases Franklin's discovery of electricity and its use in the modern world, including elements such as a sustainable dance floor, and an array of LEDs that turn on in the presence of cell phone signals and other low-power electrical signals. (Electricity and Technology)
Changing Earth, which opened to the public, along with Electricity, on March 27, 2010, focuses on the powerful forces of air, water, and land and their effect upon the earth, as well as how humans respond to and interact with these forces.
The Franklin Airshow features The Wright Brothers Aeronautical Engineering Collection, their newly restored Model B Flyer, and a U.S. Air Force 1948 T-33 Shooting Star Jet Trainer. (Aviation and Technology)
The Giant Heart has been a Philadelphia icon since its opening in 1954. (Biology, Chemistry and Anatomy)
The Joel N. Bloom Observatory, remodeled in 2006, features five telescopes, including a giant 10" Zeiss Refractor and four 8" Meade Reflectors.
The Sports Challenge is an interactive exhibit that shows the science behind sports. (Physics and Technology)
The Train Factory has a real, moving train: The Baldwin 60000 steam locomotive. (History, Engineering and Technology)
Sir Isaac's Loft, allows visitors to blend art and science into their own masterpiece. (Physics and Art)
Space Command features real space suits and allows visitors to track their houses, in real time, via satellite. (Astronomy, Technology and Mathematics)
- The Franklin Institute once featured the Foxtrot Papa Boeing 707 as a permanent exhibit. This partial fuselage could easily be seen from the outside of the building and was a remarkable sight in the middle of a major city. But in the 1980s, the aircraft was sold for scrap, much to the dismay of aviation enthusiasts.
Amazing Machine allows visitors to experience a machine-like environment featuring little-seen pieces from The Franklin Institute's priceless collection, including Maillardet's Automaton, believed to have the largest cam-based memory of any automaton of the era.
Budd BB-1 Pioneer]] in front of museum
The Science Center includes many pertinent attractions that are not museum exhibits. The Budd BB-1 Pioneer, in front of the museum, was the first stainless steel airplane built by the Edward F. Budd Manufacturing Corporation and has been on display since 1935.
A model which would eventually become the Lunar Module in the Apollo space program, first shown on display in the 1966 67 World's Fair, held in the New York Hall of Science, is also located on the grounds.
In 1933, Samuel Simeon Fels contributed funds to build The Fels Planetarium, only the second in the United States after Chicago's Adler Planetarium. Fully reconstructed in 2002, the Planetarium's new design includes replacement of the original 40,000-pound stainless steel dome, originally built in 1933. The new premium dome is lighter and is in diameter. It is the first of its kind in the United States. The planetarium is also outfitted for visitors who are hearing impaired.
The Tuttleman IMAX Theater is an IMAX dome theater that is 180 encompassing and tilted at 30 degrees. The seating places the audience up in the dome which is over across and 4.5 stories tall. In addition, the theater has 20,000 watts of amplifier power and over 50 speakers.
Early in 2008, extensive renovation of the museum's auditorium was completed. Previously a lecture hall, the space was renamed Franklin Theater, and features 3-D and hi-def Blu-Ray digital projection capabilities. The Franklin Theater s core mission is to showcase educational films during daytime hours while also including mass release feature length films.
In the past, the Science Center has hosted many traveling exhibits including Storms, Titanic, Grossology, Body Worlds, Darwin, and Robots. In the summer of 2007, The Franklin Institute hosted Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of The Pharaohs, in the Mandell Center of The Franklin Institute Science Museum. The exhibit began its United States Tour in Los Angeles, CA, and went to Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Chicago, IL, before coming to Philadelphia for its final American appearance. When the exhibit left Philadelphia on September 30, 2007, it traveled to London, England. This exhibit was nearly twice the size of the original Tutankhamun exhibit of the 1970s, and contained 50 objects directly from Tut's tomb, as well as nearly 70 object from the tombs of his ancestors in The Valley of the Kings. The show also featured a CAT Scan that revealed what the Boy King may have looked like.
During the King Tut Exhibit, the front steps are decorated with an image of King Tut's face.
The Franklin Institute is a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) and the American Association of Museums (AAM).
The Franklin Institute is also a member of the Science Museum Exhibit Collaborative with the following partners: the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History; the Museum of Science, Boston; COSI Columbus, formerly known as the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio; OMSI in Portland, Oregon; the Science Museum of Minnesota in Saint Paul, Minnesota; and the California Science Center, formerly the California Museum of Science & Industry, in Los Angeles, California.
Throughout the school year, the Museum Programs Department at The Franklin Institute provides educational experiences for school groups that visit the museum. These educational experiences include an exclusive workshop on various topics, typically relating to the current traveling exhibitions. These workshops help to enhance each student's experience while at the museum.
The Museum Programs Department also helps to enhance the educational opportunities of home-schooled students by welcoming them to the museum to take part in various activities and experiments.
Camp-In is a sleep-over program that has been in operation for many years. Taking place from October through May, it gives families, scout groups, youth groups, and school groups an opportunity to see the museum at night. Along with sleeping over, campers see an IMAX show, planetarium show, a science demonstration, and take part in several workshop activities. Also, campers have the chance to explore the museum during the evening hours when it is closed to the public. Also in 2010 of last school year, many different schools participated in 'Spy Camp' which involved chemical experiences such as the changing of chemical color changes and making a molecular dessert, which was ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen.
Discovery Camp is a summer-camp program that takes place inside the museum. The camp begins in the middle of June and continues to the end of August divided into 6 themed sessions. This program gives children aged 6 13 the opportunity to visit the museum all week long and receive many exclusive benefits, such as private demonstrations and activities, an IMAX, a planetarium show, field trips, and special 'behind the scenes' access.
Museum floor programs
Various floor programs contribute to a typical visitor's experience at the museum. Throughout the day there are public shows, such as the Liquid Air Show, the CBS3 Weather Show, and the Fireworks Show along with many interactive carts, such as Papermaking and Puzzles/Brainteasers. These activities are intended to bring a personal side to the science that the museum tries to convey.
The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial features a high marble statue, sculpted by James Earle Fraser. Originally opened in 1938, the Memorial was designed by architect John T. Windrim and modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. The Hall is in length, width, and height. The domed ceiling is self-supporting and weighs 1600 tons. The floors, walls, columns, pilasters, and cornices are made of marbles imported from Portugal, Italy, and France. Congress designated the Hall and statue as the official Benjamin Franklin National Memorial on October 25, 1972. Vice President of the United States Nelson Rockefeller dedicated the memorial in 1976.
Fraser's Franklin Statue
The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial is the only privately owned National Memorial in the country, and it is maintained by the museum.
On December 30, 2005, Congress authorized the Institute to receive up to $10,000,000 in matching grants for the rehabilitation of the memorial and for the development of related exhibits.
In the fall of 2008, The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial was re-opened after a summer-long restoration that included multi-media enhancements. Philadelphia's most famous citizen is now featured in Benjamin Franklin Forever - an hourly 3.5-minute multimedia presentation utilizing the entire rotunda.
Also noteworthy is The Franklin Institute's Frankliniana Collection, some of which is on rotating display in the Pendulum Staircase. Highlights might include his 1777 Nini Medallion; the maquette of Franklin's bust from the statue of Franklin in the Memorial; the figurehead of Franklin's bust from the USS Franklin; Franklin's Ceremonial Sword used in the Court of King Louis XVI and even the odometer that Ben used to measure the postal routes in Philadelphia. Additionally, the Institute's Electricity exhibition highlights one of Franklin's lightning rods; his Electricity Tube, given to him by Peter Collinson; a Franklin Electrostatic Generator; Franklin's 1751 publication of Observations and Experiments on Electricity...; and Thornton Oakley's two 1940 historical murals of Franklin and the "Kite and Key" experiment.
The Journal of The Franklin Institute
In 1826, The Journal of The Franklin Institute was established to publish U.S. Patent information and to document scientific and technological achievements throughout the nation. It is the second oldest continuously published scientific journal in the country, and is now primarily devoted to applied mathematics.
Since 1824, The Franklin Institute has maintained the longest continuously awarded science and technology awards program in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. The first issue of the Journal of The Franklin Institute, dated January 1826, makes the first written reference to these awards. Before 1998 several medals were awarded by The Franklin Institute, such as (year indicates when the award was first presented): the Elliott Cresson Medal (1875), the Edward Longstreth Medal (1890), the Howard N. Potts Medal (1911), the Franklin Medal (1915), the George R. Henderson Medal (1924), the Louis E. Levy Medal (1924), and the Albert A. Michelson Medal (1968). Past winners include Henry Ford, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marie Curie, and Thomas Edison.
Benjamin Franklin Medal
In 1998 all of the endowed medals were reorganized as the Benjamin Franklin Medals. Multiple medals are given every year, for different fields of science and engineering. The fields awarded today are "Chemistry", "Computer and Cognitive Science", "Earth and Environmental Science", "Electrical Engineering", "Life Science", "Mechanical Engineering" and "Physics". In the past also the fields "Earth Science", "Engineering" and "Materials Science" were rewarded.
Additionally since 1990, the Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science (shortly the Bower Science Award) and the Bower Award for Business Leadership have been yearly awarded. They are funded by a $7.5 million bequest in 1988 from Henry Bower, who was a chemical manufacturer in Philadelphia. The Bower Science Award contains $250,000 of cash, one of the largest amounts for a science award in the U.S.
The Institute's Committee on Science and the Arts determines the winners of these awards. Recipients and related information can be found in the laureates database.
Informal Science Learning Research
The Franklin Institute also undertakes informal science education research. Areas of special strength are educational technology, school partnerships, and youth leadership. In addition, the Center has built a substantial portfolio of unique online resources of the history of science, including online exhibits on Ben Franklin and the Heart, as well as resources on the Wright Aeronautical Engineering Collection.
The Science Leadership Academy
Main article: Science Leadership Academy
Opening its doors in September 2006, The Science Leadership Academy is a partnership between The Franklin Institute and The School District of Philadelphia to create a learning environment based on The Institute's philosophy that inquiry is the basis of learning. The Science Leadership Academy provides a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship. Students at the SLA learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes.
SLA was named an Apple Distinguished School in 2009 for its innovative 1:1 laptop program; a title which is reserved for schools that have implemented a 21st-century vision of education using Apple technology. The Distinguished School program was begun in 2008, and the Science Leadership Academy is one of only 33 schools in the nation, and the second in Pennsylvania, to receive the award.
Teacher professional development
The Franklin Institute is proud to offer summer institutes and school year mini-courses for K-8 teachers, in collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia and Curriculum & Instruction Office. These programs embody the Center for Innovation's commitment to inquiry science by modeling effective science teaching and learning strategies. Participants raise questions, investigate phenomena, interpret findings, consider real world connections, and reflect on the process.
Partnerships for Achieving Careers in Technology and Science
Partnerships for Achieving Careers in Technology and Science, or PACTS, is a year-round program of science enrichment, career development, and leadership opportunities for diverse middle- and high-school students in the Philadelphia Region. PACTS students use hands-on science workshops, field based research, field trips, and laboratory experiments to learn how science affects their everyday lives. PACTS is a youth leadership experience designed to involve students as an active part of the daily life of The Franklin Institute. Students who continue the program through high-school emerge with the skills and confidence to be successful college students and productive adults.
Girls at the Center
Girls at the Center is a partnership between The Franklin Institute and the Girl Scouts of the USA provided girls and their families a chance to learn about science together. Over 100 sites participated in the program, with over seventy of the sites still active today. Girls at the Center provided activities for the girls to do with their families at home, as well as projects to be completed on site, all culminating in a year-end party.
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