The American Philosophical Society (APS), founded in 1743 and located in Philadelphia, is an eminent scholarly organization of international reputation that promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications, library resources, and community outreach. Considered the first learned society in the United States, it has played an important role in American cultural and intellectual life for over 270 years.
Through research grants, published journals, the American Philosophical Society Museum, an extensive library, and regular meetings, the society continues to advance a variety of disciplines in the humanities and the sciences. Philosophical Hall, now a museum, is located just east of Independence Hall in Independence National Historical Park; it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
American Philosophical Society Hall
American Philosophical Society, 2006
|Location||104 S. Fifth St.|
|NRHP reference #||66000675|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||January 12, 1965|
The Philosophical Society, as it was originally called, was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin, James Alexander (lawyer), Francis Hopkinson, John Bartram, Philip Syng, Jr. and others as an offshoot of an earlier club, the Junto. It was founded two years after the University of Pennsylvania, with which it remains closely tied.
Since its inception, the society attracted America's finest minds. Early members included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James McHenry, Thomas Paine, David Rittenhouse, Nicholas Biddle, Owen Biddle, Benjamin Rush, James Madison, Michael Hillegas, John Marshall, and John Andrews. The society also recruited members from other countries, including Alexander von Humboldt, the Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, Tadeusz Kościuszko, and Princess Dashkova.
By 1746 the society had lapsed into inactivity. In 1767, however, it was revived, and on January 2, 1769, it united with the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge under the name American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge. Benjamin Franklin was elected the first president. During this time, the society maintained a standing Committee on American Improvements; one of its investigations was to study the prospects of a canal to connect the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River. The canal, which had been proposed by Thomas Gilpin, Sr., would not become reality until the 1820s.
After the American Revolution, the society looked for leadership to Francis Hopkinson, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Under his influence, the society received land from the government of Pennsylvania, along with a plot of land in Philadelphia where Philosophical Hall now stands.
Illustrious names have continually been added to the membership roster, reflecting the society's scope. Charles Darwin, Robert Frost, Louis Pasteur, Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz, John James Audubon, Linus Pauling, Margaret Mead, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison became members of the society. The society continues to attract names of high renown today, with a current membership list (as of the April 2005 elections) of 920 members, including 772 resident members (citizens or residents of the United States) and 148 foreign members representing more than two dozen countries.
Many members of the Society of the Cincinnati were among the APS's first board members and contributors; today the APS and SOC still maintain an informal, collegial relationship.
In 1786, the society established the Magellanic Premium, a prize for achievement in "navigation, astronomy, or natural philosophy," the oldest scientific prize awarded by an American institution, which it still awards. Other awards include the Barzun Prize for cultural history, Judson Daland Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Investigation, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the Lashley Award for neurobiology, the Lewis Award, and the Thomas Jefferson Medal for distinguished achievement in the arts, humanities, or social sciences.
The APS has published the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society since 1771. Currently five issues appear each year. The Proceedings have appeared since 1838: they publish the papers delivered at the biannual meetings of the society. The society has also published the collected papers of Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Henry, William Penn, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Jane Aitken bound some 400 volumes for the society.
Philosophical Hall, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at 104 South Fifth Street, between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, immediately south of Old City Hall, was built in 1785–89 to house the society and was designed by Samuel Vaughan in the Federal style. A third floor was added in 1890, to accommodate the expanding library, but was removed in 1948–50 when the building was restored to its original appearance for the creation of Independence National Historical Park. In 2001, it was opened to the public as The American Philosophical Society Museum, hosting revolving, thematic exhibitions that explore the intersections of history, art, and science. The museum features works of art, scientific instruments, original manuscripts, rare books, natural history specimens, and curiosities of all kinds from the APS's own collections, along with objects on loan from other institutions.
In 1789–90, the Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP) built its headquarters directly across 5th Street from APS. LCP sold its building in 1884, which was demolished for the expansion of the Drexel & Company Building in 1887. This building itself was demolished in the mid-1950s, during the creation of Independence National Historical Park.
APS built a library on the site in 1958, and recreated the facade of the old LCP building.
APS restored the former Farmers' & Mechanics' Bank building at 425–29 Chestnut Street, which was built in 1854–5 to the design of John M. Gries in the Italianate style, to serve as a lecture hall. It is the site of meetings and most major events hosted or produced by the society.
Constance C. and Edgar P. Richardson Hall at 431 Chestnut Street, immediately west of Benjamin Franklin Hall, is the former Pennsylvania Company for Insurances on Lives and Granting Annuities Building, which was built in 1871–73 and was designed by Addison Hutton. It now contains offices and the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.
Ann Martin Graybiel (born 1942) is an Institute Professor and a faculty member in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. She is an expert on the basal ganglia and the neurophysiology of habit formation, and her work is relevant to Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, obsessive–compulsive disorder, substance abuse and other disorders that affect the basal ganglia.Barbara J. Grosz
Barbara J. Grosz CorrFRSE (Philadelphia, July 21, 1948) is an American computer scientist and Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences at Harvard University. She has made seminal contributions to the fields of natural language processing and multi-agent systems.Baruch Samuel Blumberg
Baruch Samuel Blumberg (July 28, 1925 – April 5, 2011) — known as Barry Blumberg — was an American physician, geneticist, and co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (with Daniel Carleton Gajdusek), for his work on the hepatitis B virus while an investigator at the NIH. He was President of the American Philosophical Society from 2005 until his death.
Blumberg received the Nobel Prize for "discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases." Blumberg identified the hepatitis B virus, and later developed its diagnostic test and vaccine.Benjamin Franklin Medal (American Philosophical Society)
The Benjamin Franklin Medal presented by the American Philosophical Society located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., also called Benjamin Franklin Bicentennial Medal, is awarded since 1906. The originally called "Philosophical Society" was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin. The award was created to remember the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Franklin. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has this medal in his collection.The medal was created by the brothers Augustus and Louis St. Gaudens.Gordon H. Bower
Gordon H. Bower (born December 30, 1932) is a cognitive psychologist studying human memory, language comprehension, emotion, and behavior modification. He received his Ph.D. in learning theory from Yale University in 1959. He currently holds the A. R. Lang Emeritus Professorship at Stanford University. In addition to his research, Bower also was a notable adviser to numerous students, including John R. Anderson, Lawrence W. Barsalou, Lera Boroditsky, Keith Holyoak, Stephen Kosslyn, Alan Lesgold, Mark A. Gluck, and Robert Sternberg, among others.
He was voted number 42 in the list of most notable psychologists of the 20th century, published by theReview of General Psychology.
He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2005.Herbert Friedman
Herbert Friedman (June 21, 1916 – September 9, 2000) was an American pioneer in the application of sounding rockets to solar physics, aeronomy, and astronomy. He was also a statesman and public advocate for science. During his lifetime, he was awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the National Medal of Science, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society, the William Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union, the Wolf Foundation Prize in Physics, and the Albert A. Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute (1972), among others. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1960 and of the American Philosophical Society in 1964.Herman Goldstine
Herman Heine Goldstine (September 13, 1913 – June 16, 2004) was a mathematician and computer scientist, who worked as the director of the IAS machine at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study, and helped to develop ENIAC, the first of the modern electronic digital computers. He subsequently worked for many years at IBM as an IBM Fellow, the company's most prestigious technical position.Jeremiah P. Ostriker
Jeremiah Paul "Jerry" Ostriker (born April 13, 1937) is an astrophysicist and a professor of astronomy at Columbia University and is the Charles A. Young Professor Emeritus at Princeton where he also continues as a Senior Research Scholar. Ostriker has also served as a university administrator as Provost of Princeton University.Jerrold Meinwald
Jerrold Meinwald (January 16, 1927 – April 23, 2018) was an American chemist known for his work on chemical ecology, a field he co-founded with his colleague and friend Thomas Eisner. He was a Goldwin Smith Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Cornell University. He was author or co-author of well over 400 scientific articles. His interest in chemistry was sparked by fireworks done with his friend Michael Cava when they were still in junior high school. Meinwald was also a music aficionado and studied flute with Marcel Moyse – the world’s greatest flutist of his time.JoAnne Stubbe
JoAnne Stubbe is an American chemist best known for her work on ribonucleotide reductases, for which she was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2009. She currently is the Novartis Professor of Chemistry & Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stubbe has published over eighty scientific papers and has been frequently recognized for her research achievements. Before Stubbe’s work, there were no chemical mechanisms that could be written for certain enzymes. She revolutionized the biochemistry field with her first two scientific papers on enzymes enolase and pyruvate kinase. She has been active on several committees, including review boards for the NIH grants committee and the editorial boards for various scientific journals.Joel Asaph Allen
Joel Asaph Allen (July 19, 1838 – August 29, 1921) was an American zoologist, mammalogist, and ornithologist. He became the first president of the American Ornithologists' Union, the first curator of birds and mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, and the first head of that museum's Department of Ornithology. He is remembered for Allen's rule, which states that the bodies of endotherms (warm-blooded animals) vary in shape with climate, having increased surface area in hot climates to lose heat, and minimized surface area in cold climates, to conserve heat.John Lawrence LeConte
John Lawrence LeConte (May 13, 1825 – November 15, 1883) was an American entomologist of the 19th century, responsible for naming and describing approximately half of the insect taxa known in the United States during his lifetime, including some 5,000 species of beetles. He was recognized as the foremost authority on North American beetles during his lifetime, and has been described as "the father of American beetle study."Larry Squire
Larry Ryan Squire (born May 4, 1941) is a professor of psychiatry, neurosciences, and psychology at the University of California, San Diego, and a Senior Research Career Scientist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego. He is a leading investigator of the neurological bases of memory, which he studies using animal models and human patients with memory impairment.May Berenbaum
May Roberta Berenbaum (born 1953) is an American entomologist whose research focuses on the chemical interactions between herbivorous insects and their host-plants, and the implications of these interactions on the organization of natural communities and the evolution of species. Member of the National Academy of Sciences and named editor-in-chief of its journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019; Member of the American Philosophical Society (1996); and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1996). In 2014, she was awarded the National Medal of Science.Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society is a quarterly journal published by the American Philosophical Society since 1838. The journal contains papers which have been read at meetings of the American Philosophical Society each April and November, independent essays sent to the APS by outside scholars, and biographical memoirs of APS Members.Solomon H. Snyder
Solomon Halbert Snyder (born December 26, 1938) is an American neuroscientist who is known for wide-ranging contributions to neuropharmacology and neurochemistry. He studied at Georgetown University, and has conducted the majority of his research at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Many advances in molecular neuroscience have stemmed from Dr. Snyder's identification of receptors for neurotransmitters and drugs, and elucidation of the actions of psychotropic agents, making him one of the most highly cited biologists in the world. He is most famous for his research on the opioid receptor, for which he received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1978. He is one of the most highly cited researchers in the biological and biomedical sciences, with the highest h-index in those fields for the years 1983–2002.Stephen J. Benkovic
Stephen James Benkovic (born April 20, 1938) is an American chemist. He is Evan Pugh Professor and Eberly Chair in Chemistry at Penn State University. His research has focused on mechanistic enzymology and the discovery of enzyme inhibitors. He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1985.Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg (; born May 3, 1933) is an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics for his contributions with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow to the unification of the weak force and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles.
He holds the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a member of the Physics and Astronomy Departments. His research on elementary particles and physical cosmology has been honored with numerous prizes and awards, including in 1979 the Nobel Prize in Physics and in 1991 the National Medal of Science. In 2004 he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, with a citation that said he is "considered by many to be the preeminent theoretical physicist alive in the world today." He has been elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and Britain's Royal Society, as well as to the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Weinberg's articles on various subjects occasionally appear in The New York Review of Books and other periodicals. He has served as consultant at the U. S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, President of the Philosophical Society of Texas, and member of the Board of Editors of Daedalus magazine, the Council of Scholars of the Library of Congress, the JASON group of defense consultants, and many other boards and committees.Thomas C. Holt
Thomas Cleveland Holt (born November 30, 1942) is an American historian, who is the James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African American History at the University of Chicago. He has produced a number of works on the people and descendants of the African Diaspora.He taught at Howard University, Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. He was born in Danville, Virginia.
He was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2016.
City of Philadelphia
Nickname(s): City of Brotherly Love
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