Lewis and Clark's Philadelphia Legacy: 200 Years Later

Terminal E

The Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806, is considered the best-known journey of exploration and discovery in America's history. It was President Thomas Jefferson who charged two military men, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to find the most convenient river route to the western shores of North America. Jefferson also directed them to make scientific observations in order to learn about "the soil and face of the country, its growth and vegetable productions." In preparation for the journey, Lewis was sent to Philadelphia to work with pioneering scientists and scholars who would provide intensive training in astronomy, surveying, navigation, botany, zoology, and geology. Additionally, most of Lewis's scientific instruments were crafted in Philadelphia including drafting tools for mapmaking, surveying equipment, and magnetic compasses. After just two months of study and preparation, Lewis departed Philadelphia to join his fellow explorers.

Along the way, the two captains and their crew discovered hundreds of species new to science and collected many natural history specimens that were brought back to Philadelphia for further study. Many of the original specimens have been lost over the two centuries. But with great care, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, has maintained 226 of the original plant specimens collected by Meriwether Lewis-still mounted on the original sheets of linen paper and labeled in his handwriting.

This exhibit displays modern plant specimens-the same plants found in the same location over two centuries ago. The original plant specimens are a national treasure and remain as scientifically important today as when they were first discovered by Lewis.

More information is available at www.acnatsci.org.