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Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

Scientist, inventor, and political leader

Benjamin Franklin was perhaps one of the most important figures in American history. He was one of the founding fathers of America, a very knowledgeable man, and a scientist.

During his lifetime, he was a brilliant author, politician, political theorist, musician, diplomat, statesman, civic activist, postmaster, printer, and inventor.

In the area of science Franklin contributed much to the American (and the world’s) understanding of electricity through his many theories, discoveries, and inventions.

He was also the first person to form America’s first public lending library and the fire department of Pennsylvania.

He did much during the colonial wars of America, contributed much to the American value system and the spirit of goodwill, that he earned the name “The First American”.

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on the 17th of January 1706. His family was not very rich so Franklin did not graduate; he educated himself by reading a lot instead.

He was his parent’s tenth child and youngest son. Both his parents were keen that he followed a religious path, but he was not so interested.

When he was 10 years old he had to leave school to work in his father’s soap and candle shop, which he did not enjoy, and at 12 years, he joined his brother’s printing business.

At 16 years, he wrote his first article for his brother’s newspaper “The New England Courant”. He signed it off as “Mistress Silence Dogood” instead of his real name.

He ran away from his home in Boston when he was 17 years old to Pennsylvania where he worked for another printing shop, and six years later, he opened his own printing shop.

Eleven years after he wrote his first newspaper article, Franklin published a book “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. It had a calendar, weather forecasts for the year, poems and quotes.

The works that lead him to make his weather forecasts was extraordinary. When he used to see a storm he would chase is for miles, just to learn more about it.

Unlike many of the great scientists, he never applied for licence for any of his inventions, as he believed one should “freely and generously” give to others.

Of all his many inventions, his work with electricity stood out. During his observations of storms, he realized that lightening and electricity was the same thing.

To prove his theory he wanted to put a man in a tower with a rod pointing to the sky during a lightning storm. Years later, three European scientists proved his theory.

He proved his theory while flying a kite in the meadows with his son William. He noticed that the rain soaked thread of the kite, which, was tied to the key he was holding, was conducting electricity, which flowed through the key freely into the ground.

This was logic behind his invention of the lightening rod that is fixed onto buildings and homes so that electricity that strikes them can travel through the rod safely into the ground.

Franklin was the first to propose the positive and negative labels for electrical fluid under different pressures.

Franklin also mapped out the North Atlantic Ocean currents during his voyages. His work helped sailors and captains to steer their ships intelligently during storms.

During his old age, Franklin included all his works on the oceans and ships into a book called the “Maritime Observations”.

He invented a pair of bifocal glasses because he had poor vision. He had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame. Today these types of spectacles are called bifocals.

The urinary catheter that Franklin built was to help his brother James, who had kidney problems feel better. It was the first one produced in America.

Another one of Franklin’s many inventions was the Franklin stove. He invented this iron stove to reduce the danger of using wooden fireplaces.

His work with fire did not end there. He also started the first fire company and the first fire insurance company to help people live safely.

Besides science, he contributed much to our understanding of economics, types of decision making, invented the glass armonica (a musical instrument), and did much for the American public life, and founded the American Philosophical Society.

In June 1776, Benjamin Franklin was a part of the Committee of Five that made the American Declaration of Independence, and signed it.

He married Deborah Read in 1730 and had two children and he died on the 17th of April 1790 and is buried in Philadelphia. More than 20,000 people attended his funeral.

Benjamin Franklin was one of this world’s most extraordinary men whose life was devoted to inventing and improving things to help people live better. Today many other scientists help to keep the tradition alive thanks this great man’s vision.