About the APS Museum
When Benjamin Franklin and friends decided, in 1743, to establish the American Philosophical Society (APS), they studied nature and called themselves natural philosophers. Now we'd call them scientists. But the word "philosophical" stuck.
Over the years the APS has gathered and preserved a rich collection that traces American history and science from the Founding Fathers to the computer age. It includes scientific specimens and instruments, patent models, portraits, maps, art works, rare books, and more than ten million manuscripts.
The APS Museum combines sophisticated exhibitions of its treasures with provocative works by contemporary artists. Come FIND challenging new perspectives on science, history, and art.
About the APS
The American Philosophical Society (APS), this country's first learned society, has played an important role in American cultural and intellectual life for over 260 years. The APS was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin to "promote useful knowledge. . .to the benefit of mankind." Franklin convened some of the most ingenious minds in the American colonies, and later, the young country: doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and merchants; learned artisans and tradesmen; and founders of the republic such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson (who also served simultaneously as president of the Society), Alexander Hamilton, and John Marshall as well as many distinguished foreigners including Lafayette, von Steuben, and Kosciusko.
In the 18th century, natural philosophy—the study of the natural world—comprised not only theoretical knowledge but also practical investigations that are now characterized as scientific or technological. Members of the APS encouraged America's economic independence by improving agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation. Until about 1840, the APS, a private organization, functioned as a national academy of science, national library, museum, and patent office long before the federal government assumed such roles.
For many years the Society's Philosophical Hall provided space for University of Pennsylvania classes, painter Thomas Sully's studio, Charles Willson Peale's Museum, and several independent cultural and philanthropic organizations. Jefferson and other members of the Society instructed Lewis and Clark about the scientific, linguistic, and anthropological aspects of their impending exploration of the Louisiana Territory.
Today, the APS Library is home to ten million manuscripts, 250,000 volumes and bound periodicals, and thousands of maps and prints. It is a leading international center for research in the history of American science and technology, early American history and culture, and Native American linguistic studies.
Election to the APS honors extraordinary accomplishments in all fields. Currently there are 892 members from around the world, including such distinguished names as Toni Morrison, Yo-Yo Ma, I.M. Pei, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Nelson Mandela. In the course of the 20th century, over 257 members of the Society were awarded the Nobel Prize. Currently 93 members are Nobel Laureates.
Meetings of the Society are held annually in April and November, with attendance averaging several hundred members and distinguished guests. Papers presented at these meetings, and the discussions that follow, explore topics in both the sciences and humanities, from underwater archaeology to nuclear magnetic imaging, from Shakespeare's writings to race relations in modern America.
In 2001, the American Philosophical Society Museum opened in Philosophical Hall for the first time since the early 19th century, when Charles Willson Peale closed the doors to the museum he created there in 1794—the first successful museum in the country.
The APS Museum features rotating, thematic exhibitions that explore history, art, and science.
For more information, please visit www.amphilsoc.org.