Ben Franklin Essay, Research Paper
The Life of Benjamin Franklin
When one takes a look at the world in which he currently
lives, he sees it as being normal since it is so slow in changing.
When an historian looks at the present, he sees the effects of many
events and many wise people. Benjamin Franklin is one of these
people. His participation in so many different fields changed the
world immensely. He was a noted politician as well as respected
scholar. He was an important inventor and scientist. Particularly
interesting is the 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 of working various jobs. He did everything from making
cabbage-growing more efficient to making political decisions to being
the first person to study and chart the Gulf Stream movement in the
Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17,
1706. He was the fifteenth child in a family of seventeen kids. His
parents, Josiah and Abiah Franklin, were hard working devout
Puritan/Calvinist people. Josiah Franklin made candles for a living.
Since the Franklin?s 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 door to further education
for him. Since he was only a fair writer and had very poor
mathematical skills, he worked to tutor himself at home.
Benjamin Franklin was a determined young man. As a boy, he
taught himself to be a very good writer. He also learned basic
algebra and geometry, navigation, grammar, logic, and natural and
physical science. He partially mastered French, German, Italian,
Spanish, and Latin. He was soon to be named the best educated man in
the country. When he was 12-years-old, he was apprentice to his
brother in printing. Benjamin’s brother founded the second newspaper
in America. Many people told him that one newspaper was enough for
America and that the paper would soon collapse. On the contrary, it
became very popular. Occasionally, young Benjamin would write an
article to 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 amus’d themselves by writing little pieces for this
paper, which gain’d it credit and made it more in demand, and these
gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their conversations, and their
accounts of the approbation their papers 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 printing anything of mine
in his paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my
hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it in at night under the
door of the printing-house. It was found in the morning, and
communicated to his writing friends when they call’d in as usual. They
read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite
pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their
different guesses at the author, none were named but men of some
character among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose n!
ow that I was rather lucky in my judges, and that perhaps they were
not really so very good ones as I then esteem’d them.”
Benjamin liked the printer’s job but couldn’t stand being told
what to do all of the time. He desperately felt the need to be his
own boss. That day would come. In 1730, Franklin married Deborah Read,
who was the daughter of the first Philadelphia landlady. Read was not
nearly so well educated as her husband. In old letters that she had
written to him, there are many misspellings and improper punctuation
marks. They were a very happy couple despite their differences. 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 by organizing a club of aspiring tradesmen called the Junto,
which met each week 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, the first ever American fire company in
1736, a learned society in 1743, a college (the University of
Pennsylvania) in 1749, and an insurance company and a hospital in
1751. The group also worked to pave, clean, and light the streets and
to make them safe by organizing an effective night watch. They even
formed a voluntary militia. Franklin’s leadership skills helped
himself and others throughout much of his life.
In 1740, Franklin stumbled onto a new career: inventing.
That year he altered his heating stove by arranging the flues so that
the stove would heat the room twice as well while using only
one-fourth the fuel. *The stove was first called the Pennsylvania
fireplace but later named the Franklin stove out of respect for the
inventor. The Franklin stove heated the homes and businesses all over
Europe and North America.
Around the time Franklin invented his stove, he began to read
about new discoveries involving electricity. He started to experiment
with it with help from his friends in Philadelphia. He claimed that
experiments carried out in France in 1752 showed that lightning was
actually a form of electricity. Determined to further establish his
belief that lightning was electricity, he performed his famous kite
experiment. He flew a kite with a metal needle attached to the tip on
a very fine metal wire. He had a key attached to the wire and
hypothesized that the key would spark while absorbing the electricity.
The experiment was a success.
A direct effect of Franklin’s work with lightning as
electricity was his invention of the lightning rod. The first
lightning rod he made he attached to the top of his own house. Soon
after, it was hit by lightning, saving his house from damage. He said
of the lightning rod, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
cure.” News spread about the invention by way of the Royal Society’s
publications. Soon, buildings as well as ships all over the world
were equipped with lightning rods. The invention made Franklin world
famous. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1756. It was a 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 accidentally knocked himself unconscious. Of the
event he said, “I meant to kill a turkey, and instead, I nearly killed
The Franklin stove and the lightning rod were by far not the
only things Franklin invented. He had poor vision and needed glasses
to read. He got tired of constantly taking them off and putting them
back on, so he decided to figure out a way to make his glasses let him
see both near and far. *He had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and
put half of each lens in a single frame. Today, we call them bifocals.
Although Benjamin Franklin had invented many things in his
lifetime, he refused to patent any one of them. His philosophy was
that it is better to help everyone than it is to help one’s self. His
experiments and inventions were meant only to be used for the
convenience of other people, not to make himself any money or fame.
(The fame part was apparently inevitable.)
Other than inventing things to better people’s lives, Franklin
created new techniques 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 better organize the mail route. He
invented a simple odometer and attached it to his carriage. With it,
he measured the route and calculated a more efficient course by which
to deliver the mail. This shortened the time required to get mail by
days in some cases. Franklin also showed Americans how to improve
acidic soil by treating it with lime before planting. This made much
more land cultivable. He discovered that when oil is poured into
rough seas, the water is calmed and more easily navigable. (Not that
that would be a common practice today.) Franklin discovered that
diseases flourished in poorly vented places. This lead to sterile
hospital rooms hence better health care.
Franklin had very logical opinions on everything he dealt
with. During Franklin’s life, many people complained about daylight
saving time. It was an inconvenience for them to set their clocks
back and ahead annually. Franklin liked the concept. He is quoted as
saying, “It is silly and wasteful that people should live much by
candle-light and sleep by sunshine.” In Paris while observing the
first successful hot air balloon flight, Franklin observed many
skeptic people asking “What good is it?” He replied, “What good is a
newborn baby?” He could see potential in all new things.
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 but in the hundreds of inventions,
discoveries, improvements, and methods he had devised during his
eighty-four year stay in the fields of politics, science, and
humanity. What would the world be today had Benjamin Franklin not
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