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Benjamin Franklin - The 'First American'

Updated on September 29, 2010

Benjamin Franklin - The 'First American'

Benjamin Franklin(1706-1790) was the most famous and influential American of the 18th century. He was also an inventor, journalist, diplomat, and statesman. He signed both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Franklin was born in Boston in 1706 when it was still ruled by the Puritans and died in Philadelphia in 1790 as the Industrial Revolution was about to begin. He probably contributed more to the culture and political system of the young America than any of his contemporaries in his long lifetime. Franklin had a hand in the discovery of electricity, published a successful newspaper, and invented the Franklin stove. John Adams wrote that his reputation was: "greater than that of Newton, Frederick the Great, or Voltaire, his character more revered than all of them ." Some historians have called him the "first American".

Franklin was the 15th child of Josiah Franklin, a candle maker who immigrated to Boston in the late 1600's. He was 12 when he went to work for one of his brothers, a newspaper publisher. At first he was working with the presses, but soon was writing articles for the newspaper itself. At age 17 he was tired of working for his ungrateful brother and moved south to Philadelphia. There Franklin became one of the city's most important citizens, publishing newspapers and humorous books. He also started a hospital, an insurance company, a philosophical society, and a university(at present the University of Pennsylvania), which are all still in existence today. After retiring from the printing business he turned to science. He invented bifocals and the energy-efficient Franklin stove, and also helped to explore the properties of electricity.

Franklin lived in England in the 1750's and 1760's, where he represented the views of the Americans before parliament as they began to tire of British rule. He returned from London convinced that the colonies had to break free from England. He then signed the Declaration of Independence in his town country of Philadelphia in 1776. Franklin returned to Europe where he represented the United States in France, where he was famous for his scientific discoveries. In the view of many Europeans the young nation only gained credibility through its relation with the famous scientist. Franklin went back to Pennsylvania where he worked almost until his death in 1790.

Interesting fact:

  1. One of Franklin's inventions was a musical instrument known as the armonica. Before it lost popularity in the 19th century, the great Austrain composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote two compositions for Franklin's instrument.

Source: The Intellectual Devotional


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