History and Mission
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Open Every Mind to Science
Founded and incorporated in 1959 by the Junior League of the Palm Beaches, the South Florida Science Museum (SFSM) opened in 1961 as a learning environment specific to natural science and natural history. In 1964, a new wing housing the planetarium opened, originally dedicated by and named after astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
In 1971, a third phase of the facility was unveiled, more than doubling the floor space of the Museum to its current size, and adding exhibit space, classrooms, an auditorium and organizational support areas. The institution eventually became known as the Science Museum and Planetarium of Palm Beach County and in the 1980s, was renamed the South Florida Science Museum, reflecting the organization’s increasingly broad subject matter, educational purpose and geographic appeal. In 2008, the planetarium and theater were completely renovated and renamed through the support of the Dekelboum Family Foundation. The rapid growth of the Science Museum is a testament to the significant role that it assumed and continues to fulfill, within the community, serving as an educational and cultural resource for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.
In April 2012, with a successful $6 million capital campaign, we broke ground on an exciting expansion project that led the way towards the transformation of the South Florida Science Museum into the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. With a grand re-opening on June 6th, 2013, guests have enjoyed a 6,000 square foot building addition that houses the 3,000 square foot “Aquariums of the Atlantic” gallery and a 3,000 square foot Florida-themed permanent exhibit hall complete with a “River of Grass” Everglades exhibit, an interactive NOAA Science on a Sphere exhibit, and a Student Science Showcase area for winning science projects from the Palm Beach County School District. We also completed re-construction of our 5,000 square foot Hall of Discovery, containing 30 new and rehabilitated hands-on exhibits, an upgraded planetarium, a 1,000 square foot early childhood education room with water play, photo booth, seating area and a light/bright wall; an upgraded theater and upgraded amenities. Since originally opening our doors, we have hosted over ten million visitors and we are on track to serve 325,000 this year with 130,000 public and private school children from Palm Beach, Martin, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.
In 2016, we completed the 18-hole miniature golf Conservation Course designed by local legends Gary Nicklaus and Jim Fazio. It was developed as a green space to provide recreational and environmental benefits to visitors while educating people about Florida’s native habitats and was named one of the "Top Thirteen Miniature Golf Courses in the nation" by Travel Magazine.
In October of 2018, we completed the second half of our backyard, the quarter-mile-long Fisher Family Science Trail which connects 15 new exhibits, including a Physics Forest, FPL SolarScape, interactive splash pad, gem panning station and dinosaur walk. In March of 2019 we completed the $2.5 million dollar permanent exhibit “Journey Through the Human Brain” in partnership with the FAU Brain Institute, which has since been dubbed the most advanced exhibit on the human brain in the world.
In spring of 2020, we added the Cox Amphitheater to our backyard Science Trail which features daily live science shows, trivia sessions and concerts. Guests bring picnic blankets and socially-distance themselves in the grass field while being educated and entertained.
We are well-positioned to take on a new set of initiatives. On November 15, 2021 we announced exciting expansion plans along with a name change, thanks to a record donation from Howard and Wendy Cox. Their $20 million lead gift serves as the keystone for a $45 million capital expansion campaign to take the new Cox Science Center and Aquarium into the future with expanded exhibit and programming spaces, including one of Florida’s largest aquariums. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2023 and a grand opening to the public is targeted for 2025. Now we need the greater community's support to take our mission to the next level by increasing local STEM impact initiatives through this exciting transformation! To learn more, click here.
The Cox Science Center and Aquarium is located at 4801 Dreher Trail North, West Palm Beach and is open Monday – Friday from 9am-5pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 10am-6pm. For more information, call 561-832-1988. Like the Cox Science Center and Aquarium on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram @SFScienceCenter.
About Howard and Wendy Cox
Howard Cox is a pioneering leader in the American venture capital industry who helped shape its growth starting in 1971 when he joined Greylock Partners, one of the industry’s oldest venture firms. He led more than 30 major investments at Greylock and currently serves as a Special Limited Partner. He acted as an advocate for the industry as Chairman of the National Venture Capital Association. Cox was honored with the National Venture Capital Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020 and the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award in 2003.
Howard Cox has been a leader on national security issues, serving on the board of In-Q-Tel which brings new technologies to the U.S. intelligence agencies, and the Defense Business Board, which advises the Secretary of Defense on business management issues. Additionally, he is a philanthropist currently serving on the boards or advisory committees of more than two dozen nonprofit organizations.
Wendy Cox is a private investor, owner of WRB LLC Real Estate Investment Company and chairwoman of the Bingham Family Foundation, whose mission supports STEM education. She is an active tutor for early literacy in West Palm Beach.