21 Anniversary

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The Franklin Institute

Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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Every child’s favorite place to learn about science.

The History

Despite only attending school for two years and never receiving a college education, Benjamin Franklin became one of the most respected scientific minds of his generation and won praise and acclaim across the world.  Franklin was a prolific inventor throughout his lifetime and found success in designs for Bifocals and a new more efficient stove (The Franklin Stove).  Franklin published scientific works on the Gulf Stream Current, astronomy, and even how to fight off the common cold.  But Franklin’s groundbreaking work in the field of electricity is what brought him worldwide acclaim.  Franklin’s experiments dealing with electricity, theory of positive and negative charges and invention of the lightening rod, won him the prestigious Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1753 and helped to make him into a larger than life intellectual figure in his own lifetime.  As the French scientist Jacques Turgot put it, Franklin “seized the lightening from the sky and the scepter from the tyrants.”
Nearly 35 years after Franklin’s death in 1790, two Philadelphians, Samuel Merrick and William Keating wanted to honor Franklin and his work in the field of science.  Together they founded The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts in 1824, one of the first centers of science education and development in the United States.  Originally, the institute was located on South 7th Street, just a couple blocks away from where Franklin lived and one block from Independence Hall where Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, in a Greek Revival building designed by John Havilland (Eastern State Penitentiary) that now houses the Philadelphia History Museum.
The Philadelphia History Museum - The Original home the Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute quickly developed into one of the pioneers in American scientific inquiry as they led investigations into steam engines and water power.  The Journal of The Franklin Institute became one the most influential scholarly journals in early American academic circles. The Franklin Institute also offered public lectures, classes in mechanics, drafting, and engineering while promoting science and invention.  The Franklin Institute Award was also established for the recognition of science and technology and is America’s oldest and most prestigious award of its kind with notable laureates such as Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates.
After over a century at their original location the Franklin Institute moved to a new grand hall on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 1934.  It was one of the first museums in the nation to offer a hands on approach to learning about science and instantly began to attract a new enthusiastic, much younger audience.  Now nearing their bicentennial, the Franklin Institute continues to amaze children and all those interested in science from around the world.
The Franklin Institute - Present Day


What to See

The Franklin Institute is filled with a diverse and constantly evolving array of exhibits designed to amaze and stimulate science lovers of all ages while being accessible to those as young as grade school.  Some exhibits are old favorites that have been around for many decades, such as a giant heart that is to scale for a 220 foot tall person that you can walk right through and learn about this critical organ.  Other exhibits such as one explaining the human brain, are brand new!  The Institute is also home to many traveling exhibits that are only available to see for a limited time such as a current exhibit on the over 2,000 year old Terracotta Warriors of China.
The Brand New "Your Brain" Exhibit
The Franklin Institute is also home to attractions such as The Fels Planetarium, the second oldest in the United States and the Tuttleman IMAX Theater.  The institute also continues its original purpose as a more classic educational facility and hosts workshops and educational programs.  The Institute also continues to publish The Journal of The Franklin Institute, now the second oldest continuously published scientific journal in the United States.

Insider Tips

The Franklin Institute is also home the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, a massive 20 foot tall marble statue.  The hall containing the statue contains a giant domed, self-supporting ceiling that weighs 1,600 tons and is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.  The impressive site is the official National Memorial of Benjamin Franklin, located in his home city of Philadelphia rather than Washington D.C.  While the Museum does have an admission price, the National Memorial is free to the public and can be accessed by walking directly through the main entrance.  
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial

How to Get There

The Franklin Institute is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and is one of the sights on The Constitutional Bus Tour.  For guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour, visiting the Franklin Institute would require either driving or taking public transit.  The 48 Bus will pick you up right from the National Constitution Center, where all of our tours begin and end, and drop you off at 22nd and Race, just a block away from the Franklin Institute.  If you like a good walk, you should head straight down Arch towards 6th Street from the National Constitution Center.  Turn right when you reach the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Franklin Institute will be on your left hand side.


All Week:  9:30AM – 5:00PM
Note: Hours subject to change, check the Franklin Institute website for more details.

Additional Information

222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103



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