The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia Is Nearly Two Centuries Old

Academy of Natural Sciences

Academy of Natural Sciences, located at 19th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, on Logan Circle. This sculpture is of the Academy's signature animals - dinosaurs. The species here is Deinonychus antirrhopus, who lived during the Cretaceous period - in other words, approximately 100 million years or so ago.

Center City District - BLUE - Parkway Museums District

If natural history, dinosaurs, and the like are up your alley, then the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences is the right place for you to visit, while in the city.

It is smaller and more intimate than The Franklin Institute, down the street, and is generally less crowded. There is certainly enough going on within the Academy of Natural Sciences for a full day, if you are so inclined.

Or you can combine it with one or more of the other diversions, on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

A combination with the Franklin Institute, is often the best bet, given their close proximity and similar subject matter...


The trademark of the Academy, and its best-known feature, is the gigantic dinosaur you encounter, when you enter the front door. Appropriately named Giganotosaurus carolinii, it is 42 feet in length, and is estimated to have weighed eight tons. It is possible that the carnivorous dinosaur was the largest predator to ever grace the earth, in what is now Argentina.

Although the Giganotosaurus you see in Philadelphia, is a reconstructed replica (the original fossils are in Argentina, where they were unearthed), the Academy does have a major claim to fame, where dinosaurs are concerned.

In 1856, the first-ever dinosaur fossils - a few ancient teeth - in North America were unearthed, in Montana. The discoverer was Joseph Leidy - a scientist with the Academy of Natural Sciences. You can see more than 30 of Giganotosaurus's kin (closely or distantly related) in the Academy's Dinosaur Hall.

But the museum isn't just for dinosaur enthusiasts. Another fixture are the 35 dioramas, representing natural scenes and wildlife from all continents. And for those who prefer living creatures, the Academy hosts more than a hundred animals, for educational purposes.

Two Historical Treasures From the Scientific World

The Academy also owns two treasured artifacts, associated with two of the most important men, ever to mount scientific expeditions, in world history.

The first is a cannon, from the 18th-century sailing ship voyage to the Pacific Ocean, by British Captain James Cook. When one of Cook's ships ran aground in Australia's Great Barrier Reef in June 1770, its cannon lay unrecovered for nearly two centuries.

That is, until the Academy of Natural Sciences, in the 1960s, was collecting fish in the Reef, and discovered several of Cook's cannon. The Australian government donated one of the cannon to the Academy, where it resides on the second floor.

The other artifact embodies a great mixture of Philadelphia's contributions, to both American science and history. It is an American flag, from the Greenland expedition of Robert E. Peary, dating from 1891-92. Peary's expedition was sponsored by the Academy of Natural Sciences.

The Greenland expedition was a necessary precursor for Peary's subsequent trip to the North Pole. And so the flag is both a memento of both American patriotism, as well as scientific daring and courage.

Ironically, in addition to immortalizing scientific explorers, there are even actual humans, at the Academy. Two Egyptian mummies now reside on the second floor, in African Hall.

History of the Academy of Natural Sciences

The institution dates back to 1812, just 36 years after the Declaration of Independence. During the nation's early history, Philadelphia was the scientific and cultural (and for some time, political) capital of the new nation. The Academy was founded "for the encouragement and cultivation of the sciences, and the advancement of useful learning." In its near-two-centuries of existence, it has a collection of a staggering number of specimens - over 17 million, from various scientific expeditions.

Sixteen years after its founding, it opened its doors to the public as a museum in 1828. Over the next six decades, its collection grew so rapidly, thanks to gifts, bequests, and expeditions, that it outgrew its home on three occasions. During the 1840s, for example, it made its home at Broad and Sansom Streets, in the midst of the current Avenue of the Arts.

Eventually, the Academy moved to its current home, at 19th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in 1876, when the nation was celebrating its Centennial.

Learning More

For visitors, a great resource, naturally, is the official Academy of Natural Sciences web site.

Hours of Operation

Monday through Friday: 10 AM - 4:30 PM

Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays: 10 AM - 5 PM

It is open 362 days a year, and one extra in leap year; it is only closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day.


Adults - $12

Children between 3 and 12 - $10

Children under 3 - free

Seniors (Age 65 + ) - $10

Military and Students, with ID - $10

As with its next-door neighbor, the Franklin Institute, the Academy generally requires a full day, to completely explore.

So although it offers a wide range of offerings, particularly for those who have an avid interest in science, please be prepared to expend a full day (or at least half a day) at the Academy.

Getting There

It is a short walk from Suburban Station, if you take SEPTA Regional Rail service. The walk from Suburban Station is about half a mile - 0.53 miles, to be exact, according to MapQuest. When you are in Suburban, just follow signs pointing to 17th Street and/or Arch Street.

Once you emerge from the concourse, you'll see the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with all of the flags. Just walk directly up the diagonal until you reach Logan Circle.

You can also take the Phlash Trolley there, if you are visiting between May and October. Parking can be tricky to find in the area of Logan Circle, especially if you're going during the week. If you're going to drive, you're better off parking somewhere else, and either walking or taking the Phlash there.

The Academy of Natural Sciences on the Map - For Your Convenience

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