"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

Documenting Early American Science at the American Philosophical Society

Between July and December 2020, NEH CARES funds will support four Fellows and several APS staff working on Benjamin Franklin’s American Enlightenment: Documenting Early American Science at the American Philosophical Society . To learn more about the different projects, please click on the sections below.

About the Project

The goal of Franklin’s American Enlightenment is to enhance understandings of the importance of science and scientific learning in the 18th and 19th centuries. Rapidly expanding interest in scientific thought and experimentation was fueled between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment by a community of thinkers who deemed themselves the “Republic of Letters.” The common desire to advance knowledge for the benefit of mankind knit together an imagined community which transcended religious and political divisions. Benjamin Franklin’s founding of the American Philosophical Society in 1743 ensured that North Americans would play a key role in the most important scientific discoveries.

The APS’s enduring mission emerged out of the thinking of these scholars and continues to inspire today. The APS holds a vast amount of material documenting the Society’s and its Members’ central role in 18th-century transatlantic scientific discourse. The original sources, however, remain difficult to use. NEH CARES funding allowed postdoctoral Fellows and staff to continue work on important digital projects and an exhibition that were interrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19 to make these materials accessible to broad audiences.

From the Blog

This project is a work in progress and projects will be updated periodically. Stay tuned by following us on Twitter and reading the project blog. New blog posts will be added regularly and can be accessed by clicking the boxes below.

Meet the Fellows

  • Jeffery Appelhans
    Jeffery R. Appelhans specializes in the political and religious culture of early America. He completed his Ph.D. in History at the University of Delaware in 2018. His NEH CARES project is a bibliographic database of the publications of APS Members elected between 1775 and 1785, The database will include the works of such figures as George Washington, John Adams, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, and John Witherspoon. When not contributing to the APS Members Bibliography and Biography project, he is revising his book manuscript, tentatively titled “The Creation of American Catholicism: From the Revolution to the Early Republic.”

    Watch the video below to learn more about the Members Bibliography and Biogrpahy Project:

  • Janine Boldt
    Janine Yorimoto Boldt received her PhD in American Studies from William & Mary in 2018. Her NEH CARES project is a virtual exhibition and catalogue of the APS exhibition Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist, the exhibition for which she was the lead curator as the 2018-2020 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow. Her current book project investigates the political function and development of portraiture in colonial Virginia and, in collaboration with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, she recently launched the interactive database Colonial Virginia Portraits

    Watch the video below to learn more about Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist:

  • Bethany Farrell
    Bethany Farrell is a Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at Temple University. Her NEH CARES project focuses on the transcription and analysis of Benjamin Franklin’s business and personal financial account books and transactions that document trade, material consumption, information exchange, and financial relationships in early America. Her dissertation focuses on the sixteenth-century painter Bronzino’s art production and its relation to the bureaucracy and transnational exchange of Cosimo I’s court.

    Watch the video below to learn more about the Franklin Ledgers Project:

  • Julie Fisher
    Julie Fisher is a scholar of English-colonial politics, language acquisition, and borderland communities who holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Delaware with a focus on Early American and Native American history. Her NEH CARES project is an online transcription of the APS’s minutes from 1774 to 1787. She is the co-author of Ninigret, Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country, which appeared with Cornell University Press in 2014. She is also a consulting editor with the Native Northeast Portal, a digital humanities project based at Yale University.

    Watch the video below to learn more about the Early Minutes Project: