200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 93: “An Academy Leader ”

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portrait of Samuel Gibson Dixon
This portrait of Dixon was painted in 1912 by American painter Lazar Raditz and today hangs in the Library reading room. Academy Coll. no. 286.

An Academy Leader

You probably know what’s happening at the Academy now, and if you’ve been following our 200 Stories, you may even know what was going on 200 years ago at the time of our founding. But do you know what was happening 100 years into our tenure? The Academy’s president was Dr. Samuel Gibson Dixon. Sponsored by Joseph Leidy, Dixon was elected an Academy member in 1890 and became president in 1895, a post he held until his death in 1918. Dixon was a native Philadelphian and a graduate of the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1892, he moved his laboratory to the Academy of Natural Sciences and, according to Edward J. Nolan’s Brief History of the Academy (1909), “he continued his bacteriological research and perfected the biological product with which he had produced immunity to tuberculosis in the lower animals.”

Though he was chosen to be Pennsylvania’s first commissioner of health in 1905, Dixon was dedicated to his work at the Academy as well. He was instrumental in preparing the Academy for the centennial celebration that took place in 1912. Between the years 1908 and 1912, the new Library, book stacks, and lecture hall were added to the property, considerably enlarging the Academy’s usable square footage. A new elevator also was added to the building, as well as new electrical wiring and light fixtures.

Mark your calendars for March 24-25, when we unveil The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery, featuring 200 years of Academy leaders.

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