University of Pennsylvania

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UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, located in Philadelphia, emerged from a sequence of experimental trusts. Starting from a 1740 plan for a charity school, in 1749 it became a public academy, as Benjamin Franklin had suggested in his Proposals and the Constitutions. The resulting institution was significant because never before in the history of higher education had anyone founded an educational institution on purely secular and civil objectives, without patronage from a religious group, a private sponsor, or a government. Instruction began at the academy in 1751 and included some classes for poor children. In 1755 a rechartering that denominated the school a "College and Academy" epitomized Franklin's commitment to higher education.

During the eight years between 1749 and 1757 that Franklin shepherded the infant institution, he exemplified the spirit of compromise needed to moderate the conflict and bitterness that can strangle academic progress. Instead of insisting on the primarily utilitarian curriculum he preferred, he agreed to a major classical emphasis in order to attract important trustees, and thus, there emerged a balance between classical and scientific education unique in the colonies. Through the succeeding two centuries, the example of resilience set by Franklin more than once moderated academic fright over prospective change and permitted some venturesome innovations, such as the first medical school in the colonies in 1765 and the first department of botany in 1768.

Despite Franklin's example, little progress occured between 1790 and 1850. The medical school was faltering, and the pioneer law professorship of 1790–1791, which was the first in the United States, failed to inspire the establishment of a law school until 1850. Fortunately, vigor was on the point of resuming, as proved by the addition of the Towne Scientific School in 1875, the School of Dentistry in 1878, the Wharton School of Business in 1881, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1882, and the Veterinary School in 1884. Affiliation with the Free Museum of Science and Arts, which later became the University Museum in 1938, began in 1887.

The twentieth century brought medicine forward at the university. The Graduate School of Medicine was founded in 1919, the School of Nursing in 1935, and the School of Allied Medical Professions in 1950. The university became affiliated with several hospitals and diverse medical facilities. The spectrum of academic inquiry broadened further with the founding of the Moore School of Electrical Engineering in 1923, the College of Liberal Arts for Women in 1933, the Fels Institute of State and Local Government in 1937, and the Annenberg School of Communications in 1959. In 1974 the College of Liberal Arts for Women merged with its male counterpart.

Such rapid and varied growth called for taking stock, and in 1954 the university commissioned a critical five-year survey by outside specialists. Adoption of many of the suggested alterations resulted in the expenditure of $100 million for new buildings and a proliferation of experiments in curricula, student lifestyles, and community relations. Currently, the university stresses the value of interdisciplinary learning, a dedication that the establishment of the Institute for Medicine and Engineering, the Joseph H. Lauder Institute for Management and International Studies, and the Management and Technology of Program exemplifies. The university also is committed to improving the overall quality of life in West Philadelphia. The total yearly operating expenditures of the university were $3.05 billion in 2000. Franklin's little academy, which opened its doors in 1751 to 145 pupils, had become a multiform university of approximately 22,000 students in 2000.


Brands, H. W. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

Lucas, Christopher J. American Higher Education: A History. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Meyerson, Martin, and Dilys Pegler Winegrad et al. Gladly Learn and Gladly Teach: Franklin and His Heirs at the University of Pennsylvania, 1740–1976. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.

Wechsler, Louis K. Benjamin Franklin: American and World Educator. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1976.

Jeannette P.Nichols/a. e.

See alsoChemistry ; Education ; Education, Higher: Colleges and Universities ; Engineering Education ; Medical Education ; Universities, State ; Veterinary Medicine .

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University of Pennsylvania