Ben Franklin

By: Varun Prabhu 4th Blue


  • Ben Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • He was the tenth son (of seventeen children) of Josiah Franklin.
  • Josiah had seven children with his first wife, Anne Child, and ten with his second wife, Abiah Folger. Ben was the fifteenth overall child and his father's last son.
  • He grew up in a middle to lower class family, as his father was a soap-maker.
  • Ben's father wanted him to be a clergymen, but he could only afford to send Ben to one year of schooling, of which clergymen needed years. Because Ben was a bright boy who loved to read and write and was motivated by his curiousity and desire to learn, his father apprenticed him to his brother James at his print shop at age 12.
  • James refused to print any of Ben's writings, so Ben wrote and submitted fourteen letters under the pseudonym 'Mrs. Silence Dogood'. All of these letters were then published in his brother's newspaper, The New England Courant, and were wildly popular among readers. James soon found out that Ben was the author of these articles and scolded him.
  • In 1723, Ben abandoned the apprenticeship due to his brother's harsh treatment. He then ran away to New York and traveled around searching for work, eventually settling down in Philadelphia.
  • Ben lodged in the house of John Read while working as an apprentice printer. He also courted Read's daughter, Deborah. However, the next year, Ben left for London because the governor of Philadelphia promised to set Ben up in business if he traveled there and bought fonts and printing equipment.
  • While Ben was in London, the governor goes back on his promise, so Ben is forced to find work in London for several months as a print worker.
  • Upon return to Philadelphia in 1726, Ben works several occupations such as bookkeeper,shopkeeper, and currency cutter. This continued until Ben formed his own print shop in 1728. Additionally, Franklin fathered a son, William, with an unknown mother in 1728.
  • After publishing his pamphlet 'The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency', Franklin was able to purchase The Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper from a former boss. This newspaper soon became the most successful one in the colonies.
  • In 1730, Franklin got married to his childhood sweetheart, Deborah Read. They had their first son, Francis, in 1732 (he died of smallpox at age four).
  • Franklin's reputation grew in the 1730s. He published Poor Richard's Almanack in 1733 and organized Philadelphia's Union Fire Company in 1736. Also, in 1731, Franklin helped to found the Library Company, the nation's first subscription library.
  • In 1743, Franklin had his daughter Sarah.
  • Franklin soon became involved in science, experimenting, and inventing. In 1743, Franklin invented a heat-efficient stove that warmed houses (the Franklin stove). By 1749, Franklin retired from business and devoted himself to scientific pursuits.
  • In 1752, Franklin conducted his famous kite and key experiment to verify the nature of electricity and lightning.
  • Beginning in the late 1750s, Franklin became involved in the political scene. In 1757, Franklin went to England as a diplomat representing the colonies of Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. While in England, Franklin worked for colonial unity and helped repeal the Stamp Act in 1766.
  • After returning home, Franklin's wife Deborah dies in 1774.
  • Franklin is elected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and contributes heavily to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Afterward, Franklin travels to Paris as the U.S. Ambassador for almost ten years. Here, he is involved in the 1778 Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
  • Franklin returned to America in 1785. He then served as Pennsylvania's delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1789 and participated in the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, Franklin participated in the election of George Washington as the nation's first president.
  • His last significant public act was writing an anti-slavery treatise in 1789 as president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.
  • Franklin died at age 84 on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia.

Franklin's Inventions

Defining Quote

"It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man." - Ben Franklin


  • If Franklin had lived during the time period from 1890-1945, he would probably be even more successful than during his actual lifetime. His skills would come in very handy during this time period. Franklin would probably support the cause of muckrakers during this time and also would probably use his writing skills to author and publish articles that showed the injustices of the time period, from poverty to working conditions and business trusts. In addition, because Franklin was involved in the abolition movement in his time period, he would probably become active in supporting progressive reforms: he would probably use his writing background to publish articles about supporting movements promoting equality such as the labor reform, women's suffrage, and African-American rights movements. Because of his diplomatic skill, Franklin would probably serve as a foreign ambassador during conflicts such as WWI and WWII and would play a large role in the resolution of these conflicts and the creation of documents such as the Treaty of Versailles. Finally, his scientific mind would be very beneficial during this time period. Because he was such an advanced scientific thinker, Franklin would probably become a vital part of the Manhattan Project, which was responsible for the development of atomic bombs.

  • If I had Franklin's skills and lived from 1890-1945, I would use all my skills to benefit the United States. I would use my writing skills to write articles that exposed the political corruption of the era and have them published in a variety of newspapers. I would also write books about the progressive movements of social reform, education, and political reform in order to support these causes. I would use Franklin's scientific mind to conduct research about medicines in order to help save troops during all of the conflicts of the era, from the Spanish-American War to WWI and WWII.


Ben Franklin grew up in a time in which the colonies were brewing resentment against the government of Britain and its unfair policies. By the time he was an adult, this resentment against Britain was almost on the brink of war. This public opinion heavily influenced Franklin and his decisions in his later life. Because of the influence of being raised as a 'common man', Franklin agreed with the idea that Britain was acting unfairly towards its colonies. This played a large role in Franklin's involvement in the American Revolution. The ideas instilled in Franklin by the time period he lived in motivated his political involvement, from the repeal of the Stamp Act to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
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Historical Summation

In his article "Declaration of Independence Benjamin Franklin," Benton gives his opinion on how much Franklin influenced American independence from Britain. Originally, Franklin had possessed a more moderate viewpoint, supporting rule by Britain but with more colonial representation in Parliament. This soon changed, however. Having seen the poverty and brutal oppression in Britain-ruled Ireland (participial phrase), Franklin became worried that the colonies might eventually fall into a similar state unless they broke free of Britain. This caused a shift in his ideals to supporting full independence. The leaking of Governor Hutchinson's letters requesting troops to defeat Boston's rebellious population to the Sons of Liberty proved his position of supporting independence. He then returned to America and was elected to attend the Second Continental Congress. Because he was a skilled thinker and writer who also understood the British system of oppression, Franklin was appointed as one of the five people who would draft the Declaration of Independence (periodic sentence). Benton emphasizes how even though Franklin's direct contribution to the Declaration of Independence was relatively minor, his influence in America and around the world paved the way for independence in the first place. In addition, Franklin was involved in three other major documents that shaped the United States: the Franco-American Alliance of 1778, the Treaty of Paris in 1783, and the U.S. Constitution. Throughout this article, Benton believes that Franklin played a large role in the creation of the United States and is a major reason why the U.S. is the way it is today.

Franklin's Greatest Contribution

Although Franklin invented a variety of different products from bifocals to flippers, his most important contribution is discovering the electrical nature of lightning. This discovery was a major contribution to physics and helps us to understand the world around us better. Prior to Franklin's discovery, the principle of electricity was known, but scientists were uncertain about its nature. Franklin also cleared this up by using the terms positive and negative charge. His discoveries led to further research into electricity and the invention of batteries by Volta and electric motors by Faraday.

Franklin faced no moral dilemmas in his pursuit of discovering the nature of electricity. The experimentation was on the basis of scientific curiosity alone and there were no moral issues faced along the way. The only problem seen is the danger of the work due to its involvement with electricity.

Franklin Synthesis Essay

Read the following sources (including any introductory information) carefully. Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that Benjamin Franklin’s scientific contributions and inventions are more impactful than his writings and political involvement.

Source A (Shuttleworth)

Source B (Bellis)

Source C (Benton)

Source D (IHA)

Source E (Famous Scientists)

Source F (PBS)

Source A: Shuttleworth, Martyn. "Ben Franklin Kite Experiment." Explorable, 2008. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

"The most common belief is that he [Franklin] flew a kite into some storm clouds and received an electric shock, discovering electricity. Whilst this is not strictly true, this experiment was a major contribution to physics, increasing our knowledge of natural phenomena... Franklin's contribution was that he believed that lightning was a form of static electricity on a huge scale, and designed a number of experiments to try to ascertain the truth."

Source B: Bellis, Mary. "Benjamin Franklin.", n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015

"Ben Franklin also played a vital diplomatic role during the American Revolution and the early national period. In 1776, the Continental Congress sent Franklin and several others to secure a formal alliance with France, which deeply resented the loss of territory to the British during the French and Indian War. American victory over the British in the Battle of Saratoga convinced the French that the Americans were committed to independence and would be worthy partners in a formal alliance. During the war, France contributed an estimated twelve thousand soldiers and thirty-two thousand sailors to the American war effort."

Source C: Benton, Michael. "Declaration of Independence Benjamin Franklin." Benjamin Franklin. Venturo Media, 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

"For Ben Franklin, Declaration of Independence was the first of four documents he would sign that together gave birth to the United States of America. The second was the Franco-American Alliance of 1778 that secured the support of Britain's most powerful enemy; Franklin had negotiated the Alliance as the elder statesman representing America in France. The third was the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that ended the war in America's favor; Franklin was once again the leading American diplomat in the negotiations. And the fourth and final document was the United States Constitution which he signed at the age of 81 years."

Source D: "Ben Franklin." Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

"In colonial America, homes were warmed by a fireplace. The Franklin stove, invented in 1742, is a metal-lined fireplace that stands in the middle of a room. It has rear baffles for improved airflow. It provides more heat and less smoke than an open fireplace and uses less wood. This cast-iron furnace would radiate heat from the middle of the room in all directions, and the iron walls even absorbed heat, providing warmth to the room long after the fire went out."

Source E: "Benjamin Franklin." Famous Scientists, 2014. 21 Apr. 2015.

"Franklin wore spectacles for most of his life. He felt limited by the spectacles of his day, because a lens that was good for reading blurred his vision when he looked up. Working as a printer, this could be infuriating. He defeated this problem in about 1739, aged 33, with his invention of split-lens bifocal spectacles. Each lens now had two focusing distances. Looking through the bottom part of the lens was good for reading, while looking through the upper part offered good vision at a greater distance."

Source F: "Citizen Ben." Twin Cities Public Television, 2002. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

"Franklin recognized that freed slaves could not fend for themselves without help, so he advanced the idea that slaves needed to be educated in order to become contributing members of a free society. In his position of president of the abolitionist society, Franklin wrote and published an "Address to the Public,” in which he addressed the education of former slaves. The plan was to "instruct, to advise, to qualify those who have been restored to freedom, for the exercise and enjoyment of civil liberty; to promote in them habits of industry, to furnish them with employment suited to their age, sex, talents, and other circumstances . . . which we conceive will essentially promote the public good, and the happiness of these hitherto much neglected fellow-creatures."

Works Cited