Benjamin Franklin was a distinguished human being, who possessed uncanny mind and sharp wit, which he used tirelessly for the betterment of his country and society at large. Franklin is credited for many inventions including the swim fins, Franklin stove, catheter, library chair, step ladder, lightning rod, bifocal glasses etc; however, he never patented any of them. He did so, as he believed that his innovations were not mere sources of moneymaking but would raise the living standards of the masses. His experiments with the lightning, gained him recognition throughout the world. Benjamin Franklin played a vital role in American history as he was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution, thus he is considered as one of the pivotal personalities, who shaped America. His influence has been so great on the country that many scholars have gone as far as to describe him as “the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States.” Though, as a child he was not able to continue his education beyond elementary level but there was hardly a renowned university that did not felicitate him with an honorary degree for his exemplary work.
CHILDHOOD & EARLY LIFE
>> Born in Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin was baptized at Old South Meeting House. His father, Josiah Franklin, wanted him to become a clergyman but due to monetary constraints, he was able to attend school for only two years.
>> He was fond of reading, therefore he pretty much self-educated himself by extensive reading. By the age of 12, under the guidance of his brother James, who was a printer, he began to learn tricks of the trade.
>> At the age of 17, he ran away from home to start off his new life in Philadelphia.
>> In Philadelphia, Franklin worked in several print shops but did not find much success, thus moved to London, where he worked as a typesetter.
>> In 1726, he returned to Philadelphia as an employee of Thomas Denham and began to take care of his business.
>> At the age of 21, in 1727 he established a group named the Junto, which included like-minded people who wanted to bring a change in the society and express their creativity.
>> The group (Junto) loved to read but the availability of books was scarce at that time, thus, they began to collect books on various genres and this led to the formation of first subscription library in America.
>> In 1731, he wrote charter for the Library Company of Philadelphia and thus came in existence first American library.
>> He bought a newspaper called the ‘Pennsylvania Gazette’ and published ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack’ in 1733, a paper that featured cooking recipes, predictions and weather reports.
>> He established the nation’s first volunteer firefighting organization, Union Fire Company in 1736, which became one of his many remarkable contributions to the society.
>> He contributed immensely to the initial study of demographics and noted the phenomena of growing human population.
>> His 1751 work ‘Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c.’ proved inspirational for Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith.
>> He also helped organize the American Philosophical Society in 1743, the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751 and the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance against Loss by Fire in 1752. These organizations still exist today.
>> Franklin received the Copley medal in 1753 from the Royal society of London and later on was elected as a Fellow of the Society, in 1756.
>> His kite experiment proved that lightning is electricity and led to the invention of the lightning rod.
>> As a politician, he fought for the rights of his country, working actively for uniting the colonies and for independence.
>> He assisted in drafting the ‘Declaration of Independence’ in 1776. The same year he was appointed as the commissioner of the United States to France, a role he essayed with great finesse and success.
>> He was made the President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania, in 1785. Franklin was selected as a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention, in 1787.
>> One of his earliest successful literary endeavors was Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732 to 1758), which was a pamphlet published and in it Franklin wrote under the pseudonym “Poor Richard”.
>> The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which he wrote between 1771 and 1790 (Published posthumously) is revered as a classic in the genre, even today.
>> He published several path breaking works, which included ‘The Way to Wealth’ (1758), which was an ingenious guide for managing personal finances and developing entrepreneurial skills.
AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS
>> He was honored by the Royal Society’s Copley Medal (1753), for his exemplary work in the field of electricity. In the same year i.e. in 1753, he received honorary degrees from Harvard as well as Yale University, for his extraordinary contribution to society through his scientific innovations.
PERSONAL LIFE & LEGACY
>> Franklin married his childhood friend, Deborah Reed, in 1730 and they had two children. The couple also brought up William, Franklin’s illegitimate son as part of the family.
>> His love for humanity led to his involvement in community affairs and politics, and fighting for the improvement of people’s life became his motto.
>> He finally succumbed to age and health issues, at the age of 84. He took his last breath in Philadelphia and his remains were buried at Christ Church Burial Ground.
>> Franklin was no less a hero to the American public than George Washington, therefore, his legacy is ubiquitous around the nation.
>> In Franklin’s honor, the Benjamin Franklin Award is given to recognize excellence in independent publishing.
>> His images can be seen adorning various dollar bills and postage stamps.
>> Many places in the United States of America such as North Franklin Township, Nebraska and North Franklin, Maine are named after Benjamin Franklin.
>> There is a bridge over the Delaware River in the U.S. named after Franklin and it is known as Benjamin Franklin Bridge; it connects Philadelphia and Camden.
>> He was very fond of chess and also dabbled in music. He could play several musical instruments. He was also a gifted author and wrote several essays, satires etc under guise.
>> He invented many ingenious apparatuses including the lightning rod, bifocals, glass harmonica and the ‘Franklin Stove’.
>> From middle age onward he was plagued by obesity, which later on led to development of various other health issues, especially that of gout.
>> His funeral ceremony was attended by 20,000 people approximately,.
>> Electric charge (cgs unit) shares his namesake and is known as Fr.
>> His Maritime Observations published, in 1786 included rough ideas about sea anchors, catamaran hulls, watertight compartments and even a soup bowl design which would stay balanced in stormy weather.
>> He is believed to be the first person to have used the Decision making technique of drawing a pro and con list, an example of which was seen in a letter he wrote to Joseph Priestley in 1772.