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January 12, 2010, Volume 56, No. 17

Celebrating Ben Franklin’s 304th Birthday at a
Founder’s Day Symposium: Forbidden Knowledge: Art, Science, and Censorship

Ben Franklin

“Forbidden knowledge” is information that is suppressed by a society or institution, which prevents the generation, presentation, publication or distribution of information deemed objectionable or dangerous. Who forbids such knowledge and for what purpose? What does this afford or cost society? What, if anything, should be forbidden in the classroom? What is the impact on and responsibility of scholars whose research and teaching are, or become, “forbidden? ”

In keeping with this theme, on Friday, January 15, the Faculty Senate invites all members of the University of Pennsylvania community to celebrate Ben Franklin’s 304th Birthday at a Founder’s Day Symposium. 

Forbidden Knowledge: Art, Science, and Censorship will explore works that have been historically barred or marked as illicit. The discussion will focus on the motives behind censorship and the role of the University in the teaching of and research about forbidden knowledge.  

Provost Vincent Price will moderate this provocative and unscripted conversation with a panel consisting of members of Penn’s distinguished faculty drawn from throughout the University.

Founder’s Day, a tradition commemorating Penn’s founder, Benjamin Franklin, is the ideal setting for a symposium discussing forbidden knowledge, since Franklin advocated the essential role of freedom of expression and was himself a victim of censorship.  

The symposium will begin promptly at 3 p.m. and will run until 5 p.m. in the Ann L. Roy Auditorium of the School of Nursing, Claire M. Fagin Hall, 418 Curie Boulevard. It will be followed by a reception from 5–6 p.m. in the Carol Ware Gates lobby. All members of the University community are invited. No registration.

The panelists:

Anita L. Allen: Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law, Professor of Philosophy and Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs, Law School.

Ruth Schwartz Cowan: Janice and Julian Bers Professor of the History and Sociology of Science, School of Arts & Sciences.

Martha J. Farah: Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, and Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

Ralph M. Rosen: Rose Family Endowed Term Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, School of Arts and Sciences, and Co-founder of the Center for Ancient Studies.

Gino Segre: Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, School of Arts and Sciences.

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw: Associate Professor of American Art and Director of Visual Studies Program, School of Arts and Sciences.


Related: Franklin’s Legacy: American National Character

Almanac - January 12, 2010, Volume 56, No. 17