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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

Atlantic Ocean.

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

a goose.”

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

lived?


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