Franklin Institute offers modern-day innovators a glimpse at inventions of the past

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Rarely seen objects from inventors of the past were taken out of storage Thursday to be viewed by inventors of today.  

The collection, displayed during a private showing at the Franklin Institute, offered a behind-the-scenes look at items from renowned innovators, like a piece of a bent lightening rod invented by Benjamin Franklin, which became bent because it was hit by lightening — twice.

The collection is on display for the 2019 laureates, current-day pioneers who will be honored Thursday evening for their work in the world of science and engineering. Eight will receive the 2019 Benjamin Franklin Medal. The annual awards have taken place for 195 years.

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Also in the collection is a balance from the Wright brothers.

“The Wright brothers donated all of their workshop materials to the Franklin Institute,” explained curator Susannah Carroll. “They touched that, they made that, they made it from scraps of metal. They used it to measure how winged models respond to air current.”

Rounding out some of the exhibition is a working model of a steam engine by Cyrus Chambers and a C. Francis Jenkins Phantoscope — a prototype of a film projector.

Among the honorees is Dr. John Rogers, who developed a Band-Aid-like patch that detects if some one is dehydrated.

“When we do experiments in the lab today, we can go to a catalogue and order a lot of specialized parts,” he said, “and I think almost everything we saw today was really constructed from the ground up, from base, raw materials. So I think experimentalists back in those times were craftsman as well.”

Being able to touch and hold the objects, Rogers added, was a great opportunity, which went far beyond any experience of seeing things behind a glass case.

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