Benjamin Franklin

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Among his many creations were the lightning rod, the glass armonica, the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, and the flexible urinary catheter. Although Franklin ...
Benjamin Franklin

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Life Benjamin Franklin (1706 ―1790) was one of the best known Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a leading printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, diplomat and candle maker. As a scientist he was a major figure in the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As a political writer and activist he, more than anyone, invented the idea of an American nation, and as a diplomat during the American Revolution, he secured the French alliance that made independence possible. Franklin was noted for his curiosity, his writings (popular, political and scientific), and his diversity of interests. His wise and scintillating writings are proverbial to this day. As a leader of the Enlightenment, he gained the recognition of scientists and intellectuals across Europe. An agent in London before the Revolution, and Minister to France during it, he more than anyone defined the new nation in the minds of Europe. His success in securing French military and financial aid was the turning point for American victory over Britain. He invented the lightning rod; he was an early proponent of colonial unity; historians hail him as the "First American". The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania marked Franklin's 300th birthday in January 2006 with a wide array of exhibitions, and events citing Franklin's extraordinary accomplishments throughout his illustrious career. Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a devout Anglican tallow- maker. His father's marriages produced 20 children; Benjamin was the fifteenth child and youngest son. Although his parents talked of the church as a career for Franklin, his schooling ended when he was ten. He then worked for his father for a time and at 12 he became an apprentice to his brother James, a printer. However, Franklin left his apprenticeship without permission and in so doing became a fugitive. Then he became a newspaper editor, printer, and merchant in Philadelphia, becoming very wealthy. He spent many years in England and published the famous Poor Richard's Almanac and the Pennsylvania Gazette. He formed both the first public lending library and fire department in America as well as the Junto, a political discussion club. He became a national hero in America when he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. A diplomatic genius, Franklin was almost universally admired among the French as American minister to Paris, and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. From 1775 to 1776, Franklin was Postmaster General under the Continental Congress and from 1785 to his death in 1790 was President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Towards the end of his life, he became one of the most prominent abolitionists. Franklin was a prodigious inventor. Among his many creations were the lightning rod, the glass armonica, the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, and the flexible urinary catheter. Although Franklin never patented any of his own inventions, he was a supporter of the rights of inventors and authors and was responsible for inserting into the United States Constitution the provision Franklin's electrical experiments led to his invention of the lightning rod. He noted that conductors with a sharp rather than a smooth point were capable of discharging silently, and at a far greater distance. He surmised that this knowledge could be of use in protecting buildings from lightning, by attaching "upright Rods of Iron, made sharp as a Needle and gilt to prevent Rusting, and from the Foot of those Rods a Wire down the outside of the Building into the Ground;...Would not these pointed Rods probably draw the Electrical Fire silently out of a Cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure us from that most sudden and terrible Mischief!" Following a series of experiments on Franklin's own house, lightning rods were installed on the Academy of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania) and the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in 1752 Franklin was interested in science and technology, carrying out his famous electricity experiments and inventing, in addition to his very important lightning rod, the Franklin stove, catheter, swimfins, glass harmonica, and bifocals. He also played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and Franklin and Marshall College. He was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge, the oldest learned society in the United States, in 1769. In addition, Franklin was a noted linguist, fluent in five languages. He is typically recognized as a polymath. Day-light Saving Time was actually the brain child of Benjamin Franklin in his essay called "An Economical Project". He wrote it while living in France. The funny thing is that Mr. Franklin intended the whole thing as a joke poking fun at the party-going, late rising French that he was living among at the time. He proposed that the time should be changed to allow the French people to rise closer to the sunrise so that they would go to bed closer to the sunset, thus saving candle and lamp oil. His proposal, being in jest, suggested that the time be changed by several hours rather than the one hour commonly used today. A few people, missing the point, took the essay to heart and began to experiment with changing their clocks to reflect the changing sunlight hours.

Autobiography Franklin sought to cultivate his character by a plan of thirteen virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in some form for the rest of his life. His Autobiography (1818) lists his thirteen virtues as: "TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation." "SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation." "ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time." "RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve." "FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing." "INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions." "SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly." "JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty." "MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve." "CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation." "TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable." "CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation." "HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

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