200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 33: “How We Got Started ”

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image of the Academy's constutional act
Top portion of the Academy’s founding document, Constitutional Act of the Academy of Natural Sciences, dated March 17, 1812. Take note: the names of the seven founders appear below "Academy of Natural Sciences." Ewell Sale Stewart Library & Archives Coll. 529

How We Got Started

On March 17, 1812, several Philadelphia gentlemen created a constitutional act to establish the Academy of Natural Sciences and address issues pertaining to membership, governance, contributions, and collections. The founders wanted the Academy to be a civil and harmonious refuge where they could engage in “modest and friendly converse and comparisons of facts and ideas with other men who love or are devoted to science.” They expressly discouraged discussions relating to politics or religion, which they thought would distract them from the “more perfect acquirement and the better progress of natural knowledge.”

We’ve come a long way in the past 200 years. We are a world leader in biodiversity and environmental research, and our museum offers visitors the opportunity to explore rarely seen aspects of the natural world. Save the date for our March 24–25 Bicentennial Weekend, when we unveil our newest exhibit, The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery, which celebrates the Academy’s groundbreaking discoveries of the past and present and provides a glimpse into our future as one of the world’s greatest natural history museums!

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