Since our founding in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences has served as a forum for scientific discovery. The contributions of great scientists and members during the Academy’s early days made today’s scientific breakthroughs possible. From Thomas Jefferson to John James Audubon and Marie Curie, the Academy’s early members were explorers, reformers, artists, presidents, soldiers, and scientists. In part one of Famous Members, Academy Archivist Jennifer Vess shares a selection of membership cards that elegantly document these famous individuals’ ties to Academy history.
Thomas Jefferson was the first U.S. President to become a member of the Academy, just six years after our founding. Jefferson’s interest in archaeology and paleontology fit well with the pursuits of Academy members. His collection is housed in the Academy’s Vertebrate Paleontology Department and includes fossils of the American mastodon, giant ground sloth, and woolly mammoth.
John James Audubon’s acceptance into Academy membership was dramatic. When Audubon’s name was first put forward for membership in 1824, he was black-balled. Literally. Members of the Academy voted on the new prospects with a ballot box and white and black marbles. A black marble meant no. Audubon rubbed some people the wrong way, particularly George Ord, then president of the Academy. When Audubon’s name came up for membership again in 1831, with 18 other members officially sponsoring his application, he was accepted.
George McClellan is probably best known for his service during the Civil War as one of the generals who led the Union army. He also ran as the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1864. McClellan became an Academy member in 1855. During that time, he served as a soldier, conducted surveys of the west, and worked with the railroads.
Are you interested in joining Jefferson, Audubon, and their famous friends as members of the Academy?
Membership in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University gives you free year-round general admission to the museum, where you’ll see some of the most surprising and spectacular wonders of the natural world. As a member, you’ll also be providing important support for the Academy’s world-renowned research in biodiversity and environmental science. Your membership dues help:
- Ensure the conservation of the Academy’s unparalleled collections, including treasures such as John James Audubon’s birds and Thomas Jefferson’s fossil collection.
- Bring the best in science education to more than 50,000 Philadelphia students each year.
- Sustain vital scientific research into environmental and species conservation, public education, and discourse around the future of our planet.
- And much more!
Stay tuned for more famous members next week!
A version of this article originally appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Academy Frontiers.