The California Academy of Sciences is a research institute and natural history museum in San Francisco , California, one of the largest museums of natural history in the world, home to over 46 million specimens. The Academy began as an educated society in 1853 and continues to carry out a large amount of original research. Completely rebuilt in 2008, the primary building of the Academy in Golden Gate Park is 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2).
On the evening of 1853—only three years after California joined the United States — seven men gathered in a candle-lit room in San Francisco and founded the first scientific academy west of the Atlantic Seaboard. The fieldwork of local naturalists generated a growing collection of research specimens, so that a museum was opened on Market Street to display these scientific treasures. The California Academy of Sciences soon became one of the most popular destinations in the West, attracting some 80,000 visitors each year to see its giant wooly mammoth, taxidermied grizzly bears, native plant specimens, and rare artifacts.
But when the Great Quake of 1906 struck the city, the Academy’s home — and all but a handful of its specimens — was lost. As luck would have it, however, there was a two-year Academy expedition in the Galapagos Islands at the time, gathering material that would one day form the nucleus of the institution ‘s new collections.
In 1916, the Academy found a new home in Golden Gate Park, which has grown over the decades to include North American Hall, Steinhart Aquarium, Simson African Hall, Science Hall, Morrison Planetarium, and more. But in 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the area again, causing major structural damage that left the Academy in need of another start.
The Academy used this as an opportunity to rethink the entire experience of the museum. New vision: to create an institution for the 21st century — a major destination for grand design that would bring the latest in scientific research to the public in the most engaging, educational, and inspiring ways imaginable. Now home to Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, and Kimball Natural History Museum — as well as world-class research and education departments — the Academy’s mission is to explore, explain, and sustain life.
The California Academy of Sciences’ mission is to explore, explain and sustain life.
Connect people to the wonders of the natural world, the power of science, and solutions for a sustainable future.
The Academy is committed to:
Scientific Excellence: We ask bold questions about the nature and future of life on Earth, and we bring both integrity and innovation to answer them.
Sustainability: We are passionate about securing a healthy future for life on Earth, and we work to shape that future through a combination of applied research and public engagement efforts.
Environmental Literacy: We believe that giving global citizens a strong foundation in basic ecological principles is a necessary step toward a sustainable future.
Courage: We don’t shy away from tough challenges. Science is more important to our daily lives than ever before, and we unapologetically advocate for using scientific data to solve problems and make informed decisions about our collective future.
Professional Integrity: We feel a deep responsibility to our supporters, our community, and one another to uphold the highest standards of ethical and financial integrity in our work. Trust, respect, and transparency are core to our culture.
Inspiration: We are inspired daily by our planet, our mission, our staff, and our guests, and we seek to inspire the same appreciation for nature and human ingenuity in audiences around the world.
Collaboration: We recognize that we can’t solve our planet’s vast environmental challenges alone, so we partner with world-leading environmental, scientific, and community organizations to strengthen and amplify our work.
Accessibility: We believe that science is for everyone, and that every child should have the transformative experience of a visit to our museum or exposure to our digital learning resources.
Diversity: Diverse communities are stronger and more resilient, both in nature and in human society. We are committed to cultivating a culturally inclusive and equitable environment in which diversity of thought and expression are valued, respected, and celebrated.
Fun: While exploring, explaining, and sustaining life is a serious undertaking, we strive to create a fun environment for guests, volunteers, trustees, and employees alike.