150 Years of Science:
Exploring Nature's Wonders

Opens to Public March 1, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (February 27, 2003) - The California Academy of Sciences will open a new exhibition celebrating its 150th Anniversary on March 1, 2003. 150 Years of Science: Exploring Nature's Wonders, will take a close look at the Academy's long history of research, education and public programs. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see many previously unseen treasures from the Academy's collections and to view plans for the Academy's future.

"In 1853 San Francisco was a new city with a band of citizens who had a desire to better understand the natural world and to share that knowledge with others. The California Academy of Sciences - San Francisco's oldest and largest cultural institution - was created from that desire for knowledge," said Dr. Patrick Kociolek, curator and executive director of the California Academy of Sciences. "150 Years of Science tells the story of our first 150 years of exploring and explaining the natural world. I am especially pleased that we will be able to share some of our less well-known endeavors with our visitors, including our many domestic and international research expeditions and collections of over 18 million research specimens."

150 Years of Science features an enormous timeline streaming through the Academy's exhibit halls, giving visitors the opportunity to walk through 150 years of history as they learn how world events and major discoveries have shaped the pursuit of science and the Academy. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn, for instance, that in 1878 the Academy became one of the first institutions of its kind to have women members and that soon after that the Academy employed its first paid female curators.

Outposts placed in exhibit halls will detail each of the Academy's areas of focus, from the science of herpetology to the craft of designing and building exhibits. These mini-exhibits will allow visitors to learn more about individuals involved in the Academy and their work, using scientific specimens, pictures and historical information. In one location, three giant Galapagos Islands tortoises from the Academy's collections will help tell the story of the Academy's 100 years of research on the islands that helped inspire Darwin's theory of evolution.

Throughout the exhibit, special "kid zones" will offer children the opportunity to see, and in some cases, touch, specimens and live animals from the Academy's collections - including a live scorpion and mounted beetles. Placed at a child-friendly height, these kid zones were created to offer children the feeling of participating in the process of scientific discovery.

Throughout the Academy, additional historical markers will highlight innovations like the Academy's coral reef tank or items of historical interest such as the Steinhart Aquarium's 75 year-old Swamp. The markers will show what these spots were like when they were new and learn why they are significant today. For instance, visitors will have the opportunity to learn that the Steinhart Aquarium's oldest inhabitant, an Australian lungfish named Methuselah, arrived in 1938, already a fully-grown adult.

A large plasma television screen will show clips from the Academy's pioneering science television show, Science in Action, which aired nationally from 1950-1966.

About the Academy

The California Academy of Sciences is the oldest scientific institution in the West, founded in 1853 to survey the vast resources of California and beyond. Today it has grown to be one of the ten largest natural history museums in the world, with important exhibitions about natural sciences and human cultures.

The Academy is also an international center for scientific research and is at the forefront of efforts to understand and protect the diversity of life on earth. A staff of over 50 professional educators and Ph.D.-level scientists (supported by more than 100 Research and Field Associates and over 300 Fellows) work in the fields of anthropology, botany, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology and geology, mammalogy and ornithology. Each year, Academy scientists go on dozen of expeditions around the world, conducting groundbreaking environmental research and adding to the Academy's collections of over 18 million scientific specimens.