The Franklin Institute's recognition of achievements in science and technology dates to its founding in 1824. As the nation's largest city and its center of innovation and manufacturing, Philadelphia was a natural home for the Institute, which was established to train artisans and mechanics in the fundamentals of science. The Institute soon began arranging a series of regular exhibitions of manufactured goods, and as part of that began presenting awards to recognize excellence in those areas.
In 1874 the all-volunteer Franklin Institute Committee on Science and the Arts began selecting Franklin Institute Award recipients. The Committee continues its work to this day, recognizing the fields of chemistry, computer and cognitive sciences, earth and environmental science, engineering, life science and physics with Benjamin Franklin Medals, among the oldest and most prestigious science awards in the world.
Supplementing the Franklin Medals are the two newest Franklin Institute Awards: the Bower Award for Achievement in Science and the Bower Award for Business Leadership, made possible by a $7.5 million bequest from the noted Philadelphia chemical engineer Henry Bower. One of the most robust science prizes in the country, the Bower Award for Achievement in Science carries a cash prize of $250,000.
Laureates of The Franklin Institute are brought to Philadelphia each April for a weeklong series of events and activities aimed at familiarizing students and the community with their remarkable accomplishments, and what the effects they might have on the future. The week culminates with a grand awards ceremony and elegant dinner, befitting the honor and distinction of this historic awards program.
The list of Franklin Institute Award laureates is a roster of science and technology's most important and influential names over the last two centuries, men and women who have deepened human knowledge at both the basic and the applied levels. Many of them have also been recipients of the Nobel Prize. This list includes Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Marie and Pierre Curie, Thomas Edison, Jane Goodall, Orville Wright, Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick and James Watson, and Jacques Cousteau.
The Franklin Institute's mission is to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology learning. Encouraging excellence and recognizing the far reaching impact of the laureates' achievements is one important way to preserve the legacy of Benjamin Franklin.
Through the Franklin Institute Awards, we seek to broaden public awareness and encourage an understanding of the worlds of science and technology. Accordingly, the work of nominated individuals is evaluated on the basis of uncommon insight, skill and creativity, as well as its ability to impact the future or have some public benefit. In addition to celebrating the 'Franklins' of today, The Franklin Institute hopes to also inspire and influence the 'Franklins' of tomorrow.
The Franklin Institute's Committee on Science and the Arts was originally established in 1824 as the Committee on Inventions and was reorganized into its present form in 1834. Its mission was to sustain the scientific character of The Franklin Institute, through the investigation of scientific and technological achievements throughout the world. These findings became the recommendations for awarding the Benjamin Franklin Medals in the fields of chemistry, computer and cognitive science, earth and environmental science, engineering, life science, and physics.
Today, as was the case 183 years ago, the Committee maintains a very high standard for
awarding the Franklin Institute medals, using the following selection criteria:
Committee members who become case sponsors present their nomination cases for Benjamin Franklin Medals before the full Committee for review and action which can sometimes take up to two years. Following two successful case readings to the Committee (including a review of evaluations solicited from preeminent experts in the field of the case), the nomination is forwarded to the Institute's Board of Trustees for final review and approval.
Medalists are welcomed the following April to The Franklin Institute for a week-long celebration of their accomplishments, culminating with a grand awards ceremony and elegant dinner.
The all volunteer Committee is comprised of scientists and engineers from academia, government and business. This Committee meets regularly throughout the year and has a well- earned reputation for diligence and integrity. Its' work is at the heart of the mission of The Franklin Institute, to promote a passion for science and technology learning and provide a valuable service to the public and the scientific community.