The School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) is the direct descendant of the College of Philadelphia, which Benjamin Franklin established in 1755 with the first modern arts and sciences curriculum in the English colonies.

The School's research mission was established in the 19th century, when the University transformed itself into a research institution. Its 1872 move to its present location in West Philadelphia provided several city blocks for research laboratories, and a large number of researchers were hired. A graduate division was established in 1882 with the appointment of a Faculty of Philosophy. The first fellowship for graduate study was established in 1885, and the first earned Ph.D. was awarded in physics in 1889.

The School of Arts and Sciences was formally established in 1974 with the merger of the College of Arts and Science, the College for Women, the Graduate School, and four social science departments from Wharton.

Today SAS is the largest of the University’s 12 schools, providing a liberal arts education for all Penn undergraduates and supporting graduate students who conduct innovative research in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.

SAS has 28 departments , 33 graduate groups, and more than 500 standing faculty members. The School also maintains a vast array of academic programs, research centers, and interschool institutes.

Our Founder

In 1749, Benjamin Franklin published his famous essay, “Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth,” circulated it among Philadelphia’s leading citizens, and organized 24 trustees to form an institution of higher education based on his proposals. The group purchased the building and in 1751, opened its doors to children of the gentry and working class alike as the Academy and Charitable School in the Province of Pennsylvania. Franklin served as president of the institution until 1755 and continued to serve as a trustee until his death in 1790.