Founded to commemorate and continue the inventive spirit and scientific genius of Benjamin Franklin, the imposing Franklin Institute stands solid as a rock on 20th Street in Philadelphia. Science is a phenomenon—a process. You can’t put it in a museum display case. On “display” at the Franklin Institute is a surprising “collection” of ordinary, everyday experiences like “stability,” “momentum,” “speed.” Yet its rich historical collection also charts the progress of science in America, from Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod to the Wright Brothers’ airfoils and flight experiment records, to one of the earliest planetariums in America. The Franklin Institute aims to awaken the scientist in each and every one of us.
AS THE WORLD TURNS
The Foucault pendulum is a visual representation of the rotation of the earth. As the back and forth motion intersects with the spinning earth, its path slowly changes. It’s mesmerizing to watch it knock down pegs, one by one.
THE KITE AND THE KEY
Through careful observation, Benjamin Franklin determined that he could reproduce the electricity unleashed during a thunderstorm. He tested his theory with his legendary kite and key experiment. And indeed, as the storm raged above him it delivered an electrical charge to the key.
THE MECHANICAL WORLD
In a museum dedicated to ingenuity and inventiveness, this “automaton” represents the 19th century’s preoccupation with the mechanical world. This invention can draw four different images and write two poems.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
In January 1954 a heart big enough for a 220-foot human opened to the public. 50 years later it’s still beating. The idea behind the exhibit was simple. Allow visitors to follow the path of blood circulating through the heart and they would gain a better understanding of this organ that beats without rest over two and a half billion times in an average lifetime.
Space exhibits and simulators help visitors understand what it’s like for astronauts to work in space in a space suit where there’s no air pressure.