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Benjamin Franklin - Inventions, Life, Quotes, and the 13 virtues

Updated on June 5, 2014

Who was Benjamin Franklin?

He was a scientist, a philosopher, a statesman, an economist, an inventor, a printer, a musician, and a founding father of the United States of America.

Franklin once wrote “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing”. He did both and has never been forgotten. His ideas are still alive in this world today.

When was he born? When did he die?

Franklin was born on Thursday January 17th 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts, and died on Saturday April 17th 1790 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia, where is grave is in Christ Church as well as the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial and Benjamin Franklin Science Museum, is remembered as his home.

Benjamin Franklin Cenotaph
Benjamin Franklin Cenotaph

Interesting facts about Benjamin Franklin

● He helped organise the United States first Volunteer Fire Department (the Union Fire Company).

● In 1752 he established Americas first Fire Insurance Company.

● To allow others to share his passion for reading he established a Lending Library.

● He mapped the Gulfstream.

● He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and then ratify it, being the oldest signatory of the document at 70 on July 4th 1776.

● He helped to get George Washington elected as the first President of the United States on April 30th 1789.

● He negotiated the 1783 treaty of Paris which resulted in the end of the Revolutionary War.

● He carried out his famous kite and key experiment in 1752 as part of his studies into electricity.

● He set up the American Philosophical Society.

● He was a campaigner for the abolition of slavery.

● He founded the US Post Office.

● He helped co-found the Pennsylvania Hospital.

● In 1749 he founded a small academy that later became the University of Pennsylvania.

● He took over a newspaper which had gone bankrupt and renamed it The Pennsylvania Gazette which soon became profitable in his hands. It was later renamed The Saturday Evening Post.

Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial

Benjamin Franklin Inventions

The Franklin Stove; His invention of an iron furnace stove allowed people to heat their homes safely and also use less wood.

Odometer; This was invented following his involvement in mail deliveries as Postmaster when he was out on his horse and carriage measuring on routes and needed an accurate means of recording the distances.

The Lightning Rod; He invented this as part of his studies into electricity to protect buildings and ships from lightning strikes.

The Glass Armonica; This is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a Glass “Harmonica” and was a simple musical instrument played by touching the edge of a spinning glass with moist fingers. This gave a beautiful tone even appealing to composers of the day including Mozart and Beethoven.

Bifocals; Having tired of having to constantly take off and put on his reading glasses he arranged to have two pair of spectacles lens cut in half and put half of each lens in one single frame.

Water Compartments; Not his invention as it came from the Chinese, but he suggested the idea to ship builders and owners that with these compartments installed a leak in one part of a ship would not spread to another. This design is now accepted as standard worldwide.

Swim Fins; These were initially simply two wooden palettes, oval in shape with a hole to put your thumb through. Being an avid swimmer he continued to refine the design to enable him to swim faster and with less effort.

The Flexible Urinary Catheter; He invented this piece of medical equipment to help his brother who suffered from bladder stones.

Some Quotes from Benjamin Franklin

Considering when they were written most can still be seen as relevant today, still being used in everyday language.

► “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid”.

► “Honesty is the best policy”.

► “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

► “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

► “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out”.

► “Life’s tragedy is that we get old to soon and wise to late”.

► “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else”.

► And my favourite; “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead”.

Benjamin Franklins Thirteen Virtues

In 1726 Benjamin Franklin conceived a system to evolve his character and felt that others should try to live their life by. This became his list of thirteen virtues;

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order: Let all things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good too others or yourself.

6. Industry: Loose no time, be always employed in something useful. Cut of all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation: Avoid extremes, forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11. Tranquillity: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or avoidable.

12. 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.

13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

*venery mentioned in the twelfth virtue is a word from the 16th Century meaning “the gratification of sexual desire”.

Benjamin Franklin Statue in Boston
Benjamin Franklin Statue in Boston

His Life and Works

Many fine words have been written about this great man which I urge you to seek out and learn more about his life and works.

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@ 2013 Brian McKechnie (aka WorldEarth)

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    • World Earth profile image
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      Brian 3 years ago from Ayrshire, Scotland

      Thanks Wayne

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      Wayne 3 years ago

      I like this