The Scientific Society

Text by Tim Hyland
Scientific Society
Photo credit: University Archives

An ambitious group of Penn undergrads founded The Scientific Society in the fall of 1882 with the goal of promoting “scientific and literary subjects [which] would be a benefit to ourselves and other students in this University.”

The founders secured a home for themselves at College Hall by assuming the debts of the group that had previously made its home there—the just-failed Franklin Scientific Society. It may have seemed like a good deal at the time, but the Franklin Society’s demise should have been a warning to the Scientific Society founders that science clubs were not long for Penn. For a while, at least, the club enjoyed strong interest on campus. Enough students took part in its programs that the club managed to attract some of Penn’s top faculty for lectures, including Eadward Muybridge, the man most famous today for his iconic photographic studies of human and animal locomotion. One of Muybridge’s lectures, “New Developments in Animal Locomotion,” is listed on the program here, dating to 1885. Other lectures that year included, “The Relation of Ireland to England” by Prof. Robert E. Thompson, and “Coal: How To Find It, How To Mine It, How To Burn It” by Charles A. Ashburner.

Even with such scintillating lectures, however, The Scientific Society saw interest wane by the late 1880s. It folded in 1892 and was replaced by the Zelosophic Society that same year.

For more on this, go to the University Archives web site at

Originally published on .