Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ben Franklin, born on this day in 1706

Benjamin Franklin 

Young Franklin1706 Benjamin Franklin (d. April 17, 1790), American journalist, publisher, author, philanthropist, public servant, scientist, diplomat, and inventor who was also one of the leaders of the American Revolution, known also for his many quotations and his experiments with electricity. He corresponded with members of the Lunar Society and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1775, Franklin became the first US Postmaster General.
Franklin was born on January 6, 1706, which was then Epiphany, but in 1752, when he was 46, England and her colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar and also changed to New Style, which dropped 11 days. Thus we remember this American 'Renaissance man' on January 17.
Long before there was Wilson's Almanac, there was Poor Richard's Almanac, by Ben Franklin, the first American bestselling book, which gave the young Franklin financial security to begin his life's work doing … absolutely everything.
The prodigious accomplishments of the boy who left school aged ten include: the foundation of the Society to Abolish Slavery and the American Philosophical Society, the first US hospital and its first lending library, its first police and fire departments and the first American fire insurance company. He invented the lightning rod, a platform rocking chair, the step ladder that folds down into a chair, the Franklin stove (still popular today) and bifocals. He created the first efficient postal service in the USA, and an academy that became the University of Pennsylvania
He was America's first newspaper cartoonist; the US Ambassador to England and France (helping to cement the alliance so valuable to the American Revolution); a musician, philanthropist, cartographer, linguist and printer. He sat on the committee that drafted the US Declaration of Independence. He founded a popular publication, the Pennsylvania Gazette, later to become The Saturday Evening Post. He invented swim fins, and a tool to get books off of high shelves; he headed the Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress; he established two major fields of physical science, electricity and meteorology. Old Ben wrote a scientific essay that for the first time described the existence of the Gulf Stream.
He also wrote essays on how to select a mistress (pick an older woman) –  he was something of a ladies' man and a member of England's infamous and licentious Hellfire Club* – and how to avoid flatulence (drink perfume); in 1737 he drew up the first formal list of American slang terms for drunkenness (coming up with an impressive 228).
On top of all that, he was also said to have been a likeable man.
There is the story of the young Franklin arriving in Philadelphia so poor that all he could buy was a penny-roll to eat. A local girl, Deborah Powell, laughed at him. Years later she became his common-law wife.
"Franklin appears to have been the first to use, at least in print in English, these electrical terms: armature, battery, brush, charged, charging, condense, conductor, discharge, electrical fire, electrical shock, electrician, electrified, electrify, electrized, Leyden bottle, minus (negative or negatively), negatively, non-conducting, non-conductor, non-electric, plus (positive or positively), stroke (electric shock), uncharged."
Benjamin Franklin, by Carl Van Doren, 1939
 How did he do it all in one lifetime? His extraordinary autobiography tells, among many things, of his daily regimen.
Many sayings commonly used today were written by Ben Franklin:
Keep conscience clear, then never fear.
Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Don't throw stones at your neighbors', if your own windows are made of glass.
God helps them that help themselves.
For want of a nail a shoe is lost; for want of a shoe a horse is lost; for want of a horse the rider is lost.
(Sayings from Poor Richard's Almanac)
" … invented swim fins, bifocals, a glass armonica, watertight bulkheads for ships, the lightning rod, a wood stove, and an odometer. While serving as Postmaster General in 1775, Franklin decided to analyze the best routes for delivering the mail. He invented a simple odometer to help measure the mileage of the routes that he attached to his carriage."   Source
*The Hellfire Club
"The Hell Fire Club initially was based at Medmenham Abbey which Sir Francis bought and converted into an erotic garden. The members of the Hell-Fire club took part in mock religious ceremonies and used masks and costumes to allow them to indulge in varying degrees of debauchery. Medmenham gained some notoriety so the Hell Fire club moved to a more secluded site at West Wycombe caves. Members of the club included Sir Francis Dashwood, the Earl of Sandwich, Thomas Potter (the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury), John Wilkes, William Hogarth, the Earl of Bute, the Marquis of Granby, the Prince of Wales and possibly Benjamin Franklin and Horace Walpole. It was alleged that the 'monks' took prostitutes down the Thames from London in barges to act as masked 'nuns'. The members of the Club also were accused of celebrating the Black Mass over the naked bodies of aristocratic ladies, one of whom was Lady Mary Montagu Wortley, the mother-in-law of the Earl of Bute."  


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