You are here: / Franklin Institute / Libraries / The Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute

Titanic Passenger: Helen Walton Bishop

Actress portraying Titanic passenger (and survivor) Helen Walton Bishop details a small slice of what life was like aboard the Titanic on it’s fateful maiden voyage. 
Actor portrayals of passengers are a regular feature of The Franklin Institute’s “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” open now through April 7th, 2013. Go to for ticket information.

Mission and History – The Franklin Institute’s 

In the spirit of inquiry and discovery embodied by Benjamin Franklin, the mission of The Franklin Institute is to inspire a passion for learning about science and technology.

The Franklin Institute’s History

On February 5, 1824, Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating founded The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts. The Franklin Institute’s founding purpose was to honor Benjamin Franklin and advance the usefulness of his inventions.

In 1930, despite the Great Depression, The Franklin Institute and the Poor Richard Club began to seek funds to build a new science museum and memorial hall. In just twelve days, the sum of 5.1 million dollars was raised, providing the means for construction to begin. In 1932, the cornerstone of the new Franklin Institute was laid at 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In 1933, construction began on the Fels Planetarium, donated by Samuel S. Fels. It was to be only the second planetarium in America.

On January 1, 1934, The Franklin Institute Science Museum opened to the public, making it one of the first hands-on science museums in the United States. (The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry opened in phases between 1933 and 1940.) The Franklin Institute’s hands-on approach to science and technology, combined with the Fels Planetarium, made the Institute a popular spot. As the end of the twentieth century drew near, major changes were beginning at the Institute. In May of 1990, The Mandell Center, Tuttleman Omniverse Theater (now known as the Tuttleman IMAX Theater), and Musser Theater opened, adding dramatically to the size and appeal of The Franklin Institute. The new exhibits, exciting Omnimax films, and interactive presentations continued the Institute’s long tradition of making science and technology fun.

Over the years, many famous scientists have demonstrated groundbreaking new technology at The Franklin Institute. For example, Nikola Tesla demonstrated the principle of wireless telegraphy at the Institute in 1893. Later, on August 25, 1934, Philo Taylor Farnsworth gave the world’s first public demonstration of an all-electronic television system.

Today, The Franklin Institute is a vibrant 21st-Century organization that continues to offer new and exciting access to science and technology in ways that would both amaze and delight Mister Benjamin Franklin. The Institute has become a dynamic agent of change through its rich array of internationally recognized exhibitions and programs, lectures and discussions themed to illuminate issues in contemporary science, community outreach initiatives particularly targeted to girls and to urban youth, and its series of innovative partnerships in public education. The Franklin Institute’s universal appeal is reflected in the diversity of its audience—from world famous working scientists to involved citizens of any age; from elementary school through university level students; from inner city to suburban families. All are drawn here by a common interest in science and technology. ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.