The development of higher education in the colonies took a radical turn when, in 1749, Benjamin Franklin, prominent Philadelphia author and publisher, wrote a tract entitled Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania. Lamenting the lack of an academy of higher learning in Pennsylvania, Franklin submitted a startling proposal to the people of that colony. Quoting such luminaries as Locke and Milton, he recommended establishing a secular academy offering courses in modern vernacular languages, mathematics and commerce, and local, colonial, and universal history and geography. Students should be taught everything useful and everything ornamental, he wrote.
He also recommended regularly scheduled periods of physical activity, a well-stocked library, and an atmosphere in which the boarding scholars diet together, plainly, temperately and frugally. ? The mission of the academy was to prepare students not primarily for the ministry although students could choose that course of study if they wished but for careers in business, science, and public service. In addition, Franklin suggested that students aiming for different careers take courses suitable for each career. This was a significant departure from the one curriculum for all students philosophy that dominated the other colonial colleges.
The Philadelphia Academy, as it was named, was thus America's first liberal arts college. In 1751, a charter was granted by the Pennsylvania Legislature, a board of trustees was appointed by Franklin, and classes began later that year. The Academy was renamed the College of Philadelphia in 1755.
The curriculum was modified by the Reverend William Smith in 1756 to include the study of the classics, ancient as well as modern languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, science, and the useful arts. In 1765, John Morgan established America's first medical school at the college, and, in 1779, the name was officially changed to the University of Pennsylvania, the new nation's first university. University of Pennsylvania: Chemistry Department Job Openings … University of Pennsylvania university, Philadelphia … College Hall, University of Pennsylvania Flickr – Photo Sharing.