Celebrating Founders

By Carolyn Belardo

As the Academy’s Founders Day approaches–and March is Women’s History Month–another, more recent, pioneering Academy founder of sorts springs to mind. First, an explanation of Founders Day.

The Academy is offering pay-what-you-wish admission on Monday, March 23, to celebrate the founding of the nation’s oldest natural history museum. (Feel free to be generous!)

For history buffs, the official day the Academy was established by seven amateur naturalists was March 21, 1812. Initially meeting at John Speakman Apothecary Shop at 2nd and Market Streets in Philadelphia, these men pulled together their specimen collections and other resources and created the Academy of Natural Sciences for “the encouragement and cultivation of the sciences and the advancement of useful learning.”

Fast forward a century and a quarter, and another pioneer is starting her groundbreaking research at the Academy, Dr. Ruth Patrick, a freshwater ecologist. While not one of the original founders of the institution, Dr. Patrick’s pioneering studies on water pollution set the stage for the modern environmental movement.

Philadelphia-based History Making Productions has produced a short video spotlighting the contributions of Dr. Patrick, who passed away in September 2013 at the age of 105. We hope you enjoy this segment of “The Women of Philadelphia.”




Dr. Patrick left reams of books, reports, awards, plaques, knickknacks, photographs, scientific instruments, and many other items that Academy Brooke Dolan Archivist Jennifer Vess continues to sort through. To read about the Ruth Patrick Papers collection, see page 12 of the fall 2014 issue of Frontiers, the Academy members magazine.


  1. Why do they always publish that the founders may have met in one of the homes.That place was in John Speakman Apothecary Shop.On corner of Second and Market. But not important unless your a history buff????

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