Benjamin Franklin’s life began in Boston on January 17th, 1706. By the young age of twelve, he became an apprentice in his brother’s Boston printing shop; only a few short years later, in 1723, Franklin left for Philadelphia and then went onto London the following year. Having spent two years in London honing his printing skills, Franklin returned to Philadelphia where, in 1728, he opened a printing shop; only a year later, he became the owner and publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Marrying Deborah Read Rogers in 1730, Franklin became the father of William and Francis in 1731 and 1732, respectively. 1731 also saw Franklin open the first circulating library. Franklin “founded [the library] so that people could borrow books to read even though they might not have been able to afford to buy books to read,” (Franklin Institute). In 1732, Franklin began the more than quarter century-long venture of publishing the widely popular Poor Richard’s Almanac. Mourning the death of his son Francis in 1736, Franklin founded the Union Fire Company. The next year, he became Postmaster of Philadelphia. Having conceived the University of Pennsylvania in 1742, Franklin welcomed the birth of his daughter, Sarah, the next year.
Revolutionary Franklin began writing about electrical experimentation in 1747 and, the same year, organized the first militia. At the age of forty-two, he retired from printing, but life as an author had not; in 1751, Franklin’s work, Experiments and Observations on Electricity saw publication in London. Furthering his work in electricity, in June 1752, Franklin conducted his “famous kite experiment,” (Franklin Institute). Beginning in 1757, Franklin spent five years in London as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly. Returning to Philadelphia in 1762, he again traveled abroad in 1764, visiting London and, in 1767, France. Franklin became the president of the American Philosophical Society in 1769, but was soon hit by a major scandal.
In 1772, Franklin “anonymously received a packet of letters,” (Franklin Institute). As it turned out, the letters were written by Thomas Hutchinson, who was the Royal Governor of Massachusetts. Hutchinson was to send the letters to the British government, to whom he suggested the sending of more troops to Boston to fight against American colonist rebels. Franklin, thinking it wise to reveal to his local Bostonian friends Hutchinson’s scheme, allowed those close to him to read the letters with the promise that they wold not be published or circulated. In June 1773, the content of Hutchinson’s letters wound up in The Boston Gazette.
After reading the information in the Boston Gazette, Bostonians rose up and literally forced Hutchinson to depart to England. Meanwhile, the British government pushed forth to find out who released the letters. Three innocent men were indicted of the leak. Franklin, in a move to protect the innocent men, admitted his involvement by allowing people to read Hutchinson’s letters. The fallout from the troubles resulted in Franklin’s positive standing in London to diminish greatly. 1774 was even harsher for Franklin. London officially rebuked him for his involvement with the Hutchinson Letters Affair and, what is more, while in London, Franklin found out that his wife had passed away. Franklin traveled back to America by the end of the year.
The next several years saw Franklin contribute highly not just to the formation of the United States, but also facilitate diplomacy abroad. In 1775, having returned to Philadelphia, Franklin was elected to the Continental Congress and submitted the Articles of Confederation of United Colonies. In 1776, he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, he attended the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. He left America for France and in 1778, he negotiate the terms of and signed the Treaty of Alliance, Amity, and Commerce with France; he became the Minister to France the following year. He was to negotiate and sign more treaties in the years to come.
In 1782 he helped facilitate the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the United States. In 1784, he settled further accords, including a treaty with Prussia. In 1787, after having returned to Philadelphia two years earlier, Franklin was signed the Constitution and was elected president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, serving as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. On April 17, 1790, after a living a distinguished, magnanimous life of profound stature, Franklin passed away in Philadelphia.
Franklin’s life was so full and he spent his life immersed in such a diversity of studies, interests, and occupations. His many loves included music. In fact, he invented the instrument known as the glass armonica, an instrument whose glorious tones delighted the ears of composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. His inventions were also derived from his own necessity. Franklin’s poor vision and disdain for having to put on and take off glasses for reading led him to invent bifocals. Among Franklin’s many other industrious, useful, significant inventions are the flexible urinary catheter, lightning rods, iron furnace stoves, the odometer, and watertight ship compartments to prevent sinking. Franklin was also interested in meteorology. He observed storm patterns and realized that one could project where storms would eventually move. In fact, he was one of America’s earliest storm chasers. He used to venture under storms while riding on the back of a horse and even studied a whirlwind by following it for three-quarters of a mile. Franklin also was a spectator of the first hot air balloon flight when he viewed the Montgolfier brothers lift off the Paris ground. Franklin also turned his eyes toward the water, being among the first to map the Gulf stream.
Franklin’s life was brimming with contributions of countless quantity and endless impact. To Franklin, a man who contributed to academic and intellectual study, developed a number of social institutions, birthed several inventions that today remain vital parts of our lives, and was the only to sign all four documents that helped create the United States (The Declaration of Independence in 1776, The Treaty of Alliance with France in 1778, the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the United States in 1782, and the United States’ Constitution in 1787), we owe the utmost of respect, reverence, and gratitude for all that he gave not just to our nation, but the whole world.
“Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man.” The Franklin Institute. 16 October 2007. http://sln.fi.edu/franklin/rotten.html