Throughout 2012, America’s oldest natural history museum celebrated its 200th birthday. Sitting proudly in center city Philadelphia, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University was founded in 1812 and stands today as a museum and center of scientific research. Through its two centuries of existence, many of the men and women who have walked its halls have made great impacts both to the Academy and to science on the whole.
As a book chronicling the history of the Academy was being researched, the stories of these of these individuals began to come to light. From Edward Drinker Cope and the infamous “Bone Wars” of the 1880s (the earliest days of paleontology that saw scholars fiercely competing with one another to find the most dinosaur fossils), to the creation of the Academy as a modern museum in the 1930s, to Ruth Patrick’s modern-day breakthroughs in environmental sciences, the movers and shakers of the Academy’s history were brought into the limelight.
After publication of the Academy’s history, entitled A Glorious Enterprise, we began to think about bringing together the descendents of the many people who have shaped the Academy… the Academy Family Reunion was born! Some “family” members are actively involved with the Academy, but most have completely lost touch with us. We set about contacting the families we know, but are still looking to reconnect with others. At the event, Academy historian Robert Peck, co-author of the book, will share anecdotes with guests, the stories of their family members.
The enthusiasm from guests has been tremendous! Responses have steadily rolled in, often accompanied with comments of “I can’t wait for such an exciting evening!”, and everyone seems thrilled to have their own ancestors being recognized and honored for their roles in shaping the 200-year history of this incredible place. It is our hope that this family reunion becomes start of a new tradition. We would love for it to grow each year, as more descendents of the Academy’s legendary founders join us to shape the next 200 years of history together.
Are you descended from any science-inclined Philadelphians (science, medicine, plants, animals, etc.)? If so, you are probably connected to the Academy in some way, and we would love to hear from you. Your genealogy research could be helpful to us, and we have many stories to share. Please contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!