Founded on February 5, 1824 by Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts, the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania is a museum that was built to honor Benjamin Franklin and to spread the usefulness of his inventions. It is considered one of the oldest centers of science education and development in the United States.
When the Institute was established, it was initially situated at 15 South 7th Street (now the location of Atwater Kent Museum) and after over 100 years, it moved to its current site on the museum district of Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The original design plan by John Windrim was a completely square structure that would surround the Benjamin Franklin Statue, which had yet to be built. However, with the $5 million fund raised through the efforts of Poor Richard Club, the City Board of Trust, the Benjamin Franklin Memorial, Inc., and the Franklin Institute, only two of the four wings intended by Windrim were constructed.
The Institute has been a venue for many scientists who have flaunted pioneering technology. The International Electrical Exhibition of 1884, the first grand electrical exposition in the United States, was a spectacle to behold at the Institute from September 2 to October 11, 1884. Nikola Tesla captivated the visitors of the Institute when she exhibited the principle of wireless telegraphy in 1893. Philo Taylor Farnsworth, moreover, staged a presentation about an all-electronic television system on August 25, 1934.
The most prominent part of the Institute is the Science Museum, one of the first hands-on science museums in the United States, which was opened to the public on January 1, 1934. The Science Museum?s objective, to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology learning, was propagated through various permanent, as well as, traveling exhibits about the fascinating world of Science and Technology. Among other exhibits, the Science Museum houses the biggest collection of artifacts from the Wright brothers' workshop.
To make the learning more fun and interesting, visual technology was added to the museum. The Fels Planetarium, through the funds contributed by Samuel Simeon Fels, was built in 1933 and the Tuttleman Omniverse Theater (now known as the Tuttleman IMAX Theater), and Musser Theater opened in May of 1990.
One of the primary objectives in creating the Franklin Institute was to give rise to a memorial dedicated to Benjamin Franklin which led to the establishment of the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial. It showcases a marble sculpture measuring 20 feet high and was carved by James Earle Fraser. It was initially inaugurated in 1938, the memorial was conceptualized by architect John Windrim and was patterned after the famous Roman structure, the Pantheon. The entire Hall measures 25 meters all over and crowned by a dome weighing 1,600 tons. Every part of the hall is crafted out of top caliber marble sourced from France, Italy and Portugal. It is the only privately owned and maintained memorial in the United States.