Benjamin Franklin life and biography

Benjamin Franklin picture, image, poster

Benjamin Franklin biography

Date of birth : 1706-01-17
Date of death : 1790-04-17
Birthplace : Boston, Massachusetts
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-04-13
Credited as : American political theorist and civic activist, Scientist and inventor, Founding Fathers of the United States

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Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania. He was an early proponent of colonial unity, and as a political writer and activist, he supported the idea of an American nation. As a diplomat during the American Revolution, he secured the French alliance that helped to make independence of the United States possible.

Franklin is credited as being foundational to the roots of American values and character, a marriage of the practical and democratic Puritan values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of Henry Steele Commager, "In Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat." To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin, "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."

Franklin became a newspaper editor, printer, and merchant in Philadelphia, becoming very wealthy writing and publishing Poor Richard's Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin was interested in science and technology, and gained international renown for his famous experiments. He played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a national hero in America when he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. From 1775 to 1776, Franklin was the Postmaster General under the Continental Congress and from 1785 to 1788, the President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Toward the end of his life, he became one of the most prominent abolitionists.

Benjamin Franklin’s work in the discovery and applications of electricity has proved instrumental to both technology and civilization. Throughout his life, the friendships he made and the knowledge he sought utilized his own imagination, practicality, and experimentation. His enthusiasm and bold curiosity produced remarkable results, has placed him first among the scientific achievers of eighteenth-century America.

Franklin proved the old adage "Necessity is the Mother of Invention" with his creation of the bifocal lens. Unfortunate enough to be both myopic (near-sighted) and hyper optic (far-sighted), Franklin was frustrated that he had to constantly switch his pairs of glasses, depending on what he was trying to focus on. He longed for the ability to see both near and far away things with a single frame. In order to accomplish this, Benjamin had the lenses of two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in one frame. Today, millions of individuals take advantage of Franklin's bifocals, giving people a convenient way in which to correct their vision for both distance and reading.

During Franklin's times in colonial America, the severe winters would make it extremely cold in people's houses. Not only was this a result of poor insulation, but homes back then were built purely of wood. Many colonists counteracted this problem of cold spells by building open fires inside. Indeed, this was tremendously dangerous and harmful to the welfare of both families and their dwellings. Franklin rectified this unsafe method of heating by inventing the iron furnace stove, also know as the Franklin Stove. The appliance allowed people to warm their homes, it was safe and it consumed lesser fuel.

A catheter is a thin and flexible tube inserted into a bodily passage or cavity in order to allow fluids to pass into or out of it, to distend (expand) it, or to convey diagnostic or other instruments through it. Of course, Franklin's invention of the device in December, 1752, was a much cruder version of today's device. In fact, his work was actually a modification on the work of a European catheter. Nevertheless, it remains the first one of its type created in America. The mechanism was constructed by the scientist for his brother John, who was extremely ill at the time.

From 1757 to 1766, Benjamin Franklin served as a delegate for colonial America. Consequently, he spent a great deal of time travelling in both London and Paris, European centers of political activity. During this period, it was quite popular and entertaining for amateur musicians to perform on sets of singing glasses. Franklin attended one of these concerts held by Richard Puckridge, an amateur, and was immediately bedazzled by the utopian and ethereal beauty of the sound. Immediately, he went to work on refining the instrument and he soon conceived a way of bringing it to professional fame.

Franklin used wine glasses of varying sizes to create his Armonica. First, he removed the stems and drilled through the bottoms of the glasses. After corking the holes he had made, he mounted the glasses (in order of increasing size) onto a horizontal spindle. The spindle was rotated over a foot treadle at a rapid speed. Musicians played the instrument by touching moistened fingers to the edges of the rotating glasses. High-pitched sounds that emanated were due to the vibrations from within the air column of the glasses.

Believe it or not, the odometer dates all the way back to Franklin's times, for he was keen enough to foresee its usefulness in daily life. As postmaster, Benjamin was assigned the task of mapping mail routes for the local towns. He went out riding on this carriage to measure the routes and soon realized how important it was to keep track of the distances. Consequently, he invented a simple odometer attached to his carriage. The instrument was designed to measure distances by counting the rotations of the axles of the wagon. Interestingly, the device was calibrated to trigger a bell every twenty rods (1 rod =25.5 yards).

In Long Island, NY, historians speculate that Franklin used his odometer to establish mile markers along his postal route.

Benjamin Franklin's work in the field of electricity has proven vital to both society and the sciences. In his discoveries of electricity and lightning, the scientist at once realized the awesome power and current contained in each lightning bolt. In order to protect buildings and homes, he invented a lightning rod, comprised of iron, which would be mounted at the top of the edifice. Subsequently, it would attract the lightning current and immediately channel it to the ground, thereby rendering it harmless. Scientists during Franklin's time praised the invention for its practicality and dramatic purpose.

Daylight Savings Time : While in Paris, Franklin was the first to propose the idea of Daylight Savings Time. By increasing the available amount of daylight during the summer and decreasing it during the winter season, Franklin hoped to provide the world with a greater opportunity of doing productive work during the summer months, as opposed to the cold and dreary days of winter.
Fire Department : In 1736, Benjamin Franklin started the first fire department ever located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was called the Union Fire Company.
Fire Insurance Company : In 1752, Franklin was responsible for setting up America's first fire insurance company.
Gulf Stream : Franklin was one of the first people to chart the Gulf Stream. Since he spent so much time sailing back and forth from America to Europe as a diplomat, he was able to measure different temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and chart the Stream in detail.
Vitamin C : Before this nutrient had even been discovered, Franklin encouraged the eating of citrus fruits, including oranges, limes, and grapefruits. Recognizing the healthy advantages of fruit, wise Benjamin coined the phrase "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." He touted the advantages of fruit in helping to maintain the gums and skin. Only in 1795, years after Franklin's recommendations, did the British navy mandate a lime in the daily diet of British seamen. Interestingly, at that point, "limey" became a popular term for an Englishman. The decision to use the lime was instrumental in reducing instances of scurvy among naval crews and illustrates Franklin's foresight.

His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honored on coinage and money; warships; the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, namesakes, and companies; and more than two centuries after his death, countless cultural references.


Benjamin Franklin was the founder of the first university of Pennsylvania and the first city hospital of America.
He also founded the first subscription library in Philadelphia, in 1931. It was the first circulatory library in U.S.A.
He founded the “Leather Apron” Club at Philadelphia in 1727.
He was elected to the Assembly in 1737.
He founded the ‘Union Fire Company of Philadelphia’ in 1736.
He Benjamin Franklininvented ‘Franklin’ stove in 1742. He also discovered bifocal eyeglasses.
He established ‘American Philosophical Society, which was founded in 1744.
Appointed as a commissioner to trade with the Indians in 1749.
He discovered the lightning rod in 1752 and was awarded the ‘Copley Medal’ for this discovery, next year.
Elected as the Member of Royal Society in 1753.
He received an honorary degree of M.A. from Yale and Harvard Universities in 1753.
Appointed as the Commissioner from Pennsylvania to the Colonial Congress at Albany, in 1754.
He received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Oxford and Edinburgh Universities, in 1762.
He was elected as Associate Estranger of the French Academy in 1772.
Appointed as the Minister Plenipotentiary to France, in 1779.
He was elected twice as the President of Pennsylvania, in 1785 and 1786.
He developed a flexible urinary catheter.
He figured out a way to make ships work better and more safely by inventing watertight bulkheads.
He also established the first fire company in 1736 and the first five insurance companies in 1752.
He invented a simple odometer.
He was first to propose the idea of Daylight Saving Time.
He was the first credited with creating the first political cartoon, titled ‘Join or Die’.
Before the nutrient ‘Vitamin C’ had even been discovered, Franklin encouraged the eating of fruits. After his recommendations the British navy mandate a time in the daily diet of British seamen, in 1795.
He invented the most celebrated musical instrument of the eighteenth century, the Glass Armonica, in 1761.

Franklin was honored by Congress in 1976, by dedicating ‘The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial’. It is located in the rotunda of ‘The Franklin Institute Science Museum’ in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Memorial Hall features a 20 feet high marble statue of Franklin, which was sculptured by James Earle Fraser, the statue weighs 30 tons and sits on a 92 – ton pedestal of white seravezza marble.

His personal memoirs were published after his death as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

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