1. Money
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a statesmen and an inventor.

By

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. His accomplishments as a scientist, publisher and statesman are particularly remarkable when considered in the context of colonial North America, which lacked the cultural and commercial institutions to nourish original ideas. He dedicated himself to the improvement of everyday life for the widest number of people and, in so doing, made an indelible mark on the emerging nation.

Leather Apron Club

Benjamin Franklin initially gained acclaim through his organization of the Junto (or the Leather Apron Club), a small group of young men who engaged in business and debated morality, politics, and philosophy. Through his work with the club, Ben Franklin is credited with initiating a paid city watch, volunteer fire department, subscription library (Library Company of Philadelphia), and the American Philosophical Society, which promoted scientific and intellectual dialogue and, to this day, is one of the nation's premiere scholarly associations.

Scientist

Benjamin Franklin's inventions include bifocal glasses and the iron furnace stove, a small contraption with a sliding door which burns wood on a grate, thus allowing people to cook food and heat their homes at the same time.

Mid-eighteenth century scientists and inventors considered electricity to be Franklin's most remarkable area of investigation and discovery. In his famous experiment using a key and a kite during a thunderstorm, Franklin (working with his son) tested his hypothesis that lightning bolts are actually powerful electrical currents. This work led to the invention of the lightning rod which had the dramatic effect of preventing structures from igniting and burning as the result of being struck by lightning.

Publisher

Although Benjamin Franklin had little formal education, he was an avid reader and writer. At twelve he was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer, who published a weekly magazine called The Spectator. At seventeen Franklin moved to Philadelphia and quickly opened his own print shop and started publishing.

Benjamin Franklin's publications reflected his democratic spirit and so were popular in format and content. Poor Richard's Almanac consisted of stories about a fictional "Poor Richard" whose trials and tribulations provided an ideal context in which Franklin could advise readers on politics, philosophy, and how to get ahead in the world.

Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette provided information about politics to the people. Ben Franklin used political cartoons to illustrate news stories and to heighten reader appeal. The May 9, 1754 issue included Join, or Die, which is widely considered the first American political cartoon. Devised by Franklin, the cartoon reflected concern about increasing French pressure along the western frontier of the colonies.

Statesmen

To protest the Stamp Act provisions, which required newspapers be printed on imported, stamped paper, Franklin had the November 7, 1765 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette printed without date, number, masthead, or imprint. In doing so, he highlighted the impact of royal policies on colonial freedom and exerted colonists' autonomy.

Recognizing the tyranny and corruption of rule by few, Benjamin Franklin and his contemporaries George Washington and Thomas Jefferson rejected the European model of aristocratic rule and crafted a system based on representational democracy. Franklin was a member of the Continental Congress which crafted the Articles of Confederation and he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents elevated the importance of the individual in the political process, promising the state's protection of citizens' natural, inalienable rights.

Ben Franklin also played a vital diplomatic role during the American Revolution and the early national period. In 1776, the Continental Congress sent Franklin and several others to secure a formal alliance with France, which deeply resented the loss of territory to the British during the French and Indian War. American victory over the British in the Battle of Saratoga convinced the French that the Americans were committed to independence and would be worthy partners in a formal alliance. During the war, France contributed an estimated twelve thousand soldiers and thirty-two thousand sailors to the American war effort.

In the last decade of his life, Benjamin Franklin served as a member of the Constitutional Convention and was elected president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. Historians have called him the quintessential American because of his creative pragmatism, scientific innovation, and democratic spirit.

List of Inventions

Swim fins, bifocals, a glass armonica, watertight bulkheads for ships, the lightning rod, an odometer, and the wood stove (called the Franklin stove).
  1. About.com
  2. Money
  3. Inventors
  4. Famous Inventors
  5. Inventor Biography Sites
  6. Inventors A to Z Listings
  7. F Start Inventors
  8. Benjamin Franklin: An American Inventor

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.