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Marching into Philadelphia, America’s laboratory

Here's another stop on our March for Science coverage. If you would like to add your voice to this growing chorus and tell us why you are marching, contact us at editors@sciencenode.org.

Next up, Philadelphia!


Unlike any other country, our country started as an experiment.

In 1804, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth.”

The author of the Declaration of Independence was as busy crafting a new nation on July 4, 1776, as he was recording the temperature in Philadelphia. Along with James Madison (who studied physics at Princeton University), Jefferson was devoted to monitoring meteorological and astronomical phenomena.<strong>Science, not silence.</strong> 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism,' said Thomas Jefferson. The scientific enterprise is under threat today and scientists are right to speak out, the March for Science organizers argue. Courtesy March for Science Philadelphia.

Jefferson honored Isaac Newton as well as  René Descartes when he referenced the laws of nature in the Declaration of Independence. His now-famous truths that he considered to be “self-evident" refer to Euclidean geometry.

When our founders drafted the US Constitution in Philadelphia, they applied Newtonian physics to their idea of a government system, in which the checks and balances worked mechanically, a reflection of planetary motion, operating independently of human caprice.

Thus, a society built on free will, yet dependent on reason, was intended to cultivate a democracy. The freedom that was established in Philadelphia provided the basis to explore the natural history of our land and broaden the horizons of science.

As small as it was, the scientific community at the time also laid the groundwork for greater freedoms. As our nation’s first capital, the young Philadelphia grew into a hub of science, culture, and commerce, which continued to thrive well after the current capital city of Washington, D.C. was established.

Of course, Ben Franklin, America’s senior statesman, is renowned as our premier scientist for making countless discoveries and developing numerous inventions.

The freedom that was established in Philadelphia provided the basis to explore the natural history of our land and broaden the horizons of science.

The Franklin Institute is a tribute to his legacy, and the University of Pennsylvania continues to develop the world’s leading scientists and thinkers, 266 years after Franklin established the Academy and College of Philadelphia.

A city of firsts

Philadelphia is home to America’s first hospital, medical school, and pharmacy school. The country’s first botanical garden and horticultural society are also found here.

The Philadelphia Zoo was the first of its kind in America, as was the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University (which houses fossils collected by Thomas Jefferson, as well as significant specimens such as Hadrosaurus and Tiktaalik).

The American Philosophical Society, the epicenter of American cultural and intellectual thought, is across the street from Independence Hall, and down the street from the Liberty Bell.

<strong>Democratic experiment.</strong> The Philadelphia March for Science starts at 10:00 am and runs from City Hall down Market St. to a rally at Penn's Landing. Here, volunteers are hard at work on a banner. Courtesy Philadelphia March for Science.

The legacy of our Founding Fathers remains evident in landmarks all over the city, as well as the Avenue of Technology, which highlights the innovation upon which Philadelphia was built.

Those that attend the boisterous Science on Tap nights at National Mechanics can’t help but envision the Founding Fathers equally energized, debating nascent policies or marveling over amazing discoveries.

City Hall advances not only social justice, but also environmental justice, with its Greenworks program, which envisions a sustainable and environmentally conscious Philadelphia that supports the health and prosperity of all citizens.

On April 22nd, Philadelphia’s March for Science will maintain this grand tradition, as citizens take to the same streets as our Founding Fathers. We will walk in the shadow of Jefferson, Franklin, and other revolutionaries who had the same mission in mind: to advance science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity, which upholds the common good.

~Elliott Karetny


Want to read more of our March for Science coverage? 

Here's Boston.

Here's Charleston.

Here's Halifax.

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