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The Innovators Walk of Fame highlights Philly's STEAM legacy

The Walk of Fame Ceremony

Britton Chance, M.D., Ph.D., D. Sc.

John W. Mauchly

J. Presper Eckert

Frank Piasecki

Buckminster Fuller

John Backus

As a way to honor Philadelphia's amazing -- and underappreciated -- legacy in the STEAM categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, the University City Science Center has created an Innovators Walk of Fame. It will be installed on the West Philly campus in 2014.

A carefully-chosen Selection Committee reviewed nominations from the innovation community and made recommendations. The final list reflects the dynamic history of innovation in the Philadelphia region.

Under the umbrella of Science, the first inductee is Britton Chance, M.D., Ph.D., D. Sc., a leader in biochemistry and biophysics. He studied the physics of electronics and radiation, and developed noninvasive optical devices used in medicine. Long associated with the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Chance helped integrate theoretical science into biomedical and clinical applications. 

The inductees in the Technology category are John W. Mauchly  and J. Presper Eckert, Jr. from the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering. They created the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the first general-purpose electronic digital computer, and sparked the digital technology revolution. 

The inductee in Engineering is Frank Piasecki, son of an immigrant polish tailor and developer of transport helicopters and vertical lift aircrafts. Born in Philadelphia, the Overbrook High School and University of Pennsylvania alum was both an aeronautical/mechanical engineer and a pilot; his innovative tandem rotor helicopter -- a.k.a. the "Flying Banana" -- transported troops and supplies during wartime.

As for Art, the legendary Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, was a clear choice. This author, architect, inventor and futurist seamlessly integrated art with science, technology, engineering and math. Fuller was World Fellow in Residence at the Science Center in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Math inductee John Backus began his career in the early 1950s, before the computer science field even existed. In 1953, Backus developed the language Speedcoding, the first high-level language created for an IBM computer.The Philadelphia-born, Wilmington, Delaware-raised innovator and his IBM team then developed FORTRAN; for years, it was one of the best known and most used programming systems in the world.

The Corporate STEAM Champion is Lockheed Martin, a company that employs 4,800 people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Lockheed's engineers and technologists go out into the community, serving as local school advisors, extracurricular activity mentors and career role models for students. Through this program, nascent scientists are able to engage with world-class thinkers and become inspired to enter these challenging fields.

"Despite a storied history of discovery and invention which began with Ben Franklin and the founding fathers, Greater Philadelphia is often overlooked as an innovation hub," says Science Center President and CEO Steve Tang. "The Innovators Walk of Fame will shine a spotlight on the visionaries who invented Greater Philadelphia's future."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
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