Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
“I will find a way or I will create one.“ -Virgil.
Born in 1706 the fifteenth child of a poor soap and candle maker, Benjamin Franklin’s formal education ended at Boston Latin School at the age of ten. Apprenticed to his brother, a printer, he spent his evenings reading and developing his own style of writing.
In Philadelphia from the age of seventeen, Franklin became a successful printer, essayist, moralist, civic leader, inventor and philosopher. After purchasing the nearly defunct Pennsylvania Gazette, he started his own publication, Poor Richard’s Almanac. Both later had the largest circulations in the colonies. Franklin organized Philadelphia’s first fire fighting company, hospital, public circulating library, and city street lighting.
He established an Academy which became the University of Pennsylvania; his Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge was the origin of the American Philosophical Society. He invented the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, bifocal lenses and the glass harmonica, for which Mozart and Beethoven wrote music. Franklin measured the Gulf Stream, designed ships, tracked storm paths and formulated a theory of energy absorption.
Halfway in his life, the forty-two year old successful and wealthy Benjamin Franklin retired from active business to devote himself to scientific inquiry and public service. As a scientist, (then called “natural philosopher”), his studies of electricity established him as a world celebrated conceptual genius, the Newton of electricity.
Benjamin Franklin later spent fifteen arduous years on two missions in London representing the American colonies. He returned home at age sixty-nine and became Pennsylvania’s delegate to the Second Continental Congress. There he tenaciously concentrated not only on convincing his compatriots that separation from England was inevitable and preparing the means of defense, but also on building infrastructure for an independent country and seeking help from France and Spain. On his diplomatic mission to France after the Declaration of Independence, Franklin turned to the art of gentle persuasion, winning the love, respect and support of the French. At the Constitutional Convention, his skill in negotiating compromise between disparate passions saved the union.