The Achievements Of Benjamin Franklin

Upon his death, Benjamin Franklin exemplified the virtues of the American spirit as a statesman, inventor, scientist and writer.

No one believed Benjamin Franklin to be a genius. He did not come from a prosperous family and therefore did not receive the best education. In fact, no one would have thought Ben would have amounted to much of anything. But upon Benjamin Franklin's death he exemplified the virtues of the American spirit as a statesman, inventor, scientist and writer.

The fifteenth of seventeen children, Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 into a modest candle maker's family. Ben's father had every intention that his son should follow into the family business, but candle making was not to Ben's liking. Seeking alternatives -- and there were few given Ben's two years of formal schooling -- Benjamin began working for his older brother James Franklin in a printing shop. Always hungry for knowledge, Ben found the newspaper business stimulating. Eager to participate, Ben read voraciously in an attempt at self-education. He found a keen interest in writing and began to anonymously admit articles to James' Boston paper, the New England Courant. Under his pen name of Mrs. Silence Dogood, Benjamin poked fun at the local colonial authorities. Mrs. Silence Dogood's comments were wildly popular among the Boston crowds, yet even James was not aware of Mrs. Dogood's true identity.

Disputes with James sent Benjamin to Philadelphia. Arriving with no money to his name, Benjamin's affability won him jobs working in the local presses. Ben soon made influential friends who encouraged his natural writing talent. It was in Philadelphia that Benjamin began to receive recognition for his work, allowing him to raise money to purchase the nearly defunct Pennsylvania Gazette in 1726. Under Benjamin's care, the Gazette's popularity soared. In 1732, Benjamin published his famous Poor Richard's Almanac to much acclaim.

Secure in his writing career, Benjamin began to explore his other interests. In 1736 he became the clerk of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. As clerk he introduced the country's first fire stations, improved road conditions in the Pennsylvania colony and began work on creating the country's first public library. At this time Benjamin was also dabbling in science. During his famous kite experiments with electricity, Benjamin invented the lightening rod. The simple metal rod became a standard feature on colonial buildings to protect them from devastating lighting strikes. Eventually Benjamin established the American Philosophical Society to promote scientific study.

Benjamin Franklin is, in fact, responsible for many common items used today by people throughout the world. In response to the inefficient method of heating homes with a central wood fire, Benjamin invented the Franklin Stove. With its enclosed burning area and stovepipes, the stove allowed for more efficient and safer heating of homes. The wood burning stoves used today do not deviate significantly from Benjamin's original design. From his work with the stove, Ben also developed the theory on heat absorption.

Since Benjamin was both near and far-sighted, he invented out of necessity the first pair of bifocals. When his brother James was gravely ill, he improved upon the European-designed catheter, which led to James' recovery. Benjamin established the idea of a postal system for the colonies. And along his postal routes, Benjamin hit upon the idea of an odometer. Benjamin's talents even extended to music. He invented the glass harmonica in 1761. It was well understood that water-filled glasses would produce a melodic sound when manipulated with a moistened fingertip. Benjamin was so impressed by the sound produced, that he devised an instrument based on the same principal. The instrument was so popular that Mozart and Beethoven both included it in their compositions.

Some of Benjamin's greatest achievements are later in life when he became a premier statesman. He was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1750 where his principal duties were voyaging to London to represent the colony before the English parliament. But as British laws became more and more restrictive of colony life, Benjamin felt his loyalties to the King of England waning. His increasingly pro-independence stance led him to be elected to the Continental Congress. Subsequently he became a member of the committe to draft a new constitution. During the Revolutionary War, Benjamin's diplomatic finesse proved vital. In 1781, it was Benjamin who persuaded the French to supply funds to the colonies to fight the British. Along with John Adams and John Jay, Benjamin Franklin was responsible for establishing peace with Great Britain after the war by signing the Treaty of Versailles. Benjamin continued with his statesman's duties by lobbying until his death in 1790 for the abolishment of the slave trade.

Blessed with little more than a burning desire to learn, Benjamin not only became an American icon but also left behind foundations on which the country was built. From his bifocals to electricity to the University of Pennsylvania -- a university founded on Benjamin's liberal yet practical approach to education -- Benjamin Franklin's achievements epitomize the tenacity and ingenuity of American culture.

Sources: "Benjamin Franklin and an Enlightened America" at

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