By: Eric B DeponceauWhen one takes a look at the world in which he currently lives, he sees itas being normal since it is so slow in changing. When an historian looks atthe present, he sees the effects of many events and many profound people.Benjamin Franklin is one of these people. His participation in so manydifferent fields changed the world immensely. He was a noted politician aswell as respected scholar.
He was an important inventor and scientist.Particularly interesting is his impact on the scientific world.Benjamin Franklin was a modest man who had had many jobs in his lifetime.This may help explain his large array of inventions and new methods ofworking various jobs. He did everything from making cabbage growing moreefficient to making political decisions to being the first person to studyand chart the Gulf Stream movement in the Atlantic Ocean.Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706. He was thefifteenth child in a family of seventeen kids.
His parents, Josiah andAbiah Franklin, were hard working devout Puritan/Calvinist people. JosiahFranklin made candles for a living. Since the Franklins were so poor,little Benjamin couldn’t afford to go to school for longer than two years.In those two years, however, Franklin learned to read which opened the doorto further education for him. Since he was only a fair writer and had verypoor mathematical skills, he worked to tutor himself at home.(www.incell.
com)Benjamin Franklin was a determined young man. As a boy, he taught himselfto be a very good writer. He also learned basic algebra and geometry,navigation, grammar, logic, and natural and physical science. He partiallymastered French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. He was soon to benamed the best-educated man in the country. When he was 12-years-old, hewas apprentice to his brother in printing. Benjamin’s brother founded thesecond newspaper in America.
Many people told him that one newspaper wasenough for America and that the paper would soon collapse. On the contrary,it became very popular. Occasionally, young Benjamin would write an articleto be printed and slip it under the printing room’s door signed as”Anonymous”. The following is a direct quote from Franklin’s Autobiography.
It describes his writing the articles as a boy.”He (Benjamin’s older brother) had some ingenious men among his friends,who amused themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, which gainedit credit and made it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us.Hearing their conversations, and their accounts of the approbation theirpapers were received with, I was excited to try my hand among them; but,being still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printinganything of mine in his paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived todisguise my hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it in at nightunder the door of the printing-house. It was found in the morning, andcommunicated to his writing friends when they called in as usual. They readit, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure offinding it met with their approbation, and that, in their different guessesat the author, none were named but men of some character among us forlearning and ingenuity.
I suppose now that I was rather lucky in my judges,and that perhaps they were not really so very good ones as I then esteemedthem.” (www.earlyamerica.
com)Benjamin liked the printer’s job but couldn’t stand being told what to doall of the time. He desperately felt the need to be his own boss. That daywould come.In 1730, Franklin married Deborah Read, who was the daughter of the firstPhiladelphia landlady. Read was not nearly as well educated as her husband.In old letters that she had written to him, there are many misspellings andimproper punctuation marks. They were a very happy couple despite theirdifferences.
They eventually had two boys and one girl. One of the boys,William, became governor of New Jersey.When Franklin was 21-years-old, he began his career as a civic leader byorganizing a club of aspiring tradesmen called the Junto, which met eachweek for discussion and planning.
They hoped to build their own businesses,insure the growth of Philadelphia, and improve the quality of its life.Franklin led the University of Junto in founding a library in 1731, thefirst ever-American fire company in 1736, a learned society in 1743, acollege (the University of Pennsylvania) in 1749, and an insurance companyand a hospital in 1751. The group also worked to pave, clean, and light thestreets and to make them safe by organizing an effective night watch. Theyeven formed a voluntary militia.
Franklin’s leadership skills helpedhimself and others throughout much of his life.In 1740, Franklin stumbled onto a new career: inventing. That year healtered his heating stove by arranging the flues so that the stove wouldheat the room twice as well while using only one-fourth the fuel. The stovewas first called the Pennsylvania fireplace but later named the Franklinstove out of respect for the inventor. The Franklin stove heated the homesand businesses all over Europe and North America.
Around the time Franklin invented his stove, he began to read about newdiscoveries involving electricity. He started to experiment with it withhelp from his friends in Philadelphia. He claimed that experiments carriedout in France in 1752 showed that lightning was actually a form ofelectricity. Determined to further establish his belief that lightning waselectricity, he performed his famous kite experiment. He flew a kite with ametal needle attached to the tip on a very fine metal wire. He had a keyattached to the wire and hypothesized that the key would spark whileabsorbing the electricity. The experiment was a success.
A direct effect of Franklin’s work with lightning as electricity was hisinvention of the lightning rod. The first lightning rod he made he attachedto the top of his own house. Soon after, it was hit by lightning, savinghis house from damage. He said of the lightning rod, “An ounce ofprevention is worth a pound of cure.” News spread about the invention byway of the Royal Society’s publications. Soon, buildings as well as shipsall over the world were equipped with lightning rods. The invention madeFranklin world famous. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1756.
It wasa rarity for a colonist to be elected to this London based elite society.In dealing with electricity, Franklin worked with great personal risk.Once, while attempting to kill a turkey with electricity, he accidentallyknocked himself unconscious.
Of the event he said, “I meant to kill aturkey, and instead, I nearly killed a goose.”The Franklin stove and the lightning rod were by far not the only thingsFranklin invented. He had poor vision and needed glasses to read. He gottired of constantly taking them off and putting them back on, so he decidedto figure out a way to make his glasses let him see both near and far. Hehad two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in asingle frame.
Today, we call them bifocals.Although Benjamin Franklin had invented many things in his lifetime, herefused to patent any one of them. His philosophy was that it is better tohelp everyone than it is to help one’s self. His experiments and inventionswere meant only to be used for the convenience of other people, not to makehimself any money or fame.
Other than inventing things to better people’s lives, Franklin created newtechniques to aid people in doing all sorts of things. In the early 1760’s,Franklin took the title of Postmaster in Philadelphia. He decided to betterorganize the mail route. He invented a simple odometer and attached it tohis carriage. With it, he measured the route and calculated a moreefficient course by which to deliver the mail. This shortened the timerequired to get mail by days in some cases.
Franklin also showed Americanshow to improve acidic soil by treating it with lime before planting. Thismade much more land cultivable. He discovered that when oil is poured intorough seas, the water is calmed and more easily navigable. (Not that thatwould be a common practice today.) Franklin discovered that diseasesflourished in poorly vented places. This lead to sterile hospital roomshence better health care.
Franklin had very logical opinions on everything he dealt with. DuringFranklin’s life, many people complained about daylight saving time. It wasan inconvenience for them to set their clocks back and ahead annually.Franklin liked the concept. He is quoted as saying, “It is silly andwasteful that people should live much by candle-light and sleep bysunshine.” In Paris while observing the first successful hot air balloonflight, Franklin observed many skeptic people asking, “What good is it?” Hereplied, “What good is a newborn baby?” He could see potential in all newthings.
Benjamin Franklin was a mild-mannered widely loved “jack-of-all-trades”.His name and reputation will live on forever not only in history books butalso in the hundreds of inventions, discoveries, improvements, and methodshe had devised during his eighty-four year stay in the fields of politics,science, and humanity. What would the world be today had Benjamin Franklinnot lived?Referenceswww.
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