In Franklin's Footsteps: 275 Years at the American Philosophical Society

April 13-December 30, 2018
104 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA

2018 is the 275th anniversary of the American Philosophical Society. In recognition of this event, the APS Museum has curated a special exhibition titled In Franklin’s Footsteps:  275 Years at the American Philosophical Society. It tells the story of the APS, focusing on the work of its elected Members and using materials from the Society’s renowned collections—from Benjamin Franklin’s library chair to Neil Armstrong’s signed copy of the moon landing transcript.

Since Franklin founded the Society in 1743, the APS has endeavored to promote useful knowledge and improve the quality of life for all. Then, as today, prominent intellectuals were elected to be Members and met regularly to discuss the important ideas of the time. For 275 years, the APS and its Members have continued this Enlightenment mission, making important discoveries, pioneering new fields of study, and advancing social progress.

In Franklin’s Footsteps highlights the groundbreaking work of APS Members and the innovations they have made that changed the world. Members have calculated the size of the solar system, explored distant lands, shed light on the origins of life, unearthed ancient fossils, invented computer technologies, cured diseases, and walked on the moon.  Today’s elected Members continue to build on this legacy by increasing our useful knowledge and improving the world we live in.

Highlights of the exhibition include David Rittenhouse’s astronomical telescope, Benjamin Franklin’s personal library books, one of Lewis and Clark’s journals from their expedition, Darwin’s handwritten draft of the title page for the Origin of Species, and photographs of the first Bikini Atoll atomic bomb test.

Support for this exhibition was provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, APS Members and Friends, and donations by visitors to the APS Museum.