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Who was Benjamin Franklin?

Updated on December 3, 2016

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the American statesman, writer and scientist , was born at Boston, Massachusetts. At twelve years of age he was apprenticed to the printing trade, and as a young man worked as a printer in Philadelphia and in London, where he spent two years. He returned to America in 1726 to run the Pennsylvania Gazette (1729) and to first make a name for himself by publishing Poor Richard's Almanac (1732), a kind of magazine full of homely sayings and funny quips, which had a big circulation for years. He began to take an interest in public affairs and became clerk to the Assembly, postmaster o[ Philadelphia and, in 1753, joint controller of the Colonial Postal Services.

Self-educated and bursting with ideas to improve his fellow human beings, he founded societies, organized America's first circulating library, a hospital, fire-fighting measures, volunteer regiments, street-cleaning and street-paving; he also founded an academy which developed into the University of Pennsylvania. Turning hi s attention to science, he made researches that proved the distinction between positive and negative electricity and that lightning and electricity are identical.

Always practical, he suggested the use of lightning conductors for tall buildings. Further, he discovered the course of the Gulf Stream and the paths of storms across North America. His scientific papers aroused great interest in England and France and he was made a member of the Royal Society.

In 1757 this gifted ingenious man was sent to England to put Pennsylvania 's case against the Penn family in a dispute over taxes; he succeeded in his mission and during a five years' stay received honorary degrees from Oxford and Edinburgh. In 1764 he was back again to contest Parliament's taxing or the colonies; he appeared before the House of Commons and put the case so well that the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766. He himself was still a loyalist, but as the difference between the British government and the colonies became more bitter, he gave his mind and energies to serving his country and he took a leading part in drawing up the Declaration of Independence.

After war broke out, he was sent in 1776 as delegate to Paris, where his reputation as scientist and philosopher, together with his dignified yet warm, humorous personality, brought him popularity and success.

He secured the treaty of alliance with France that contributed greatly to America's victory and achievement of independence. He stayed on in Paris as United States minister and negotiated commercial treaties with Prussia and Sweden before returning home in 1785. He was now world famous and a national hero beloved by all classes. Elected President of the state of Pennsylvania, he helped to draw up the constitution of the United States, while still writing scientific papers and working in Congress for the abolition of slavery up to the time of his death.

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