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Happy Birthday! Ben

January 17, 2006 marks the 300th anniversay of the birth of one of American's greatest scientists and inventors. Franklin was without a doubt the most famous American of his time.

Born January 17, 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts, Franklin 's parents were Josiah and Abiah Folger Franklin. Josiah was a soap and candlemaker. By the age on 10, Franklin was working for his father, but didn't enjoy the candlemaking profession. So after a couple of years he was apprenticed to his brother, James, a printer.

For five years, Franklin sought to master the printers' trade. During this time, he also strove to improve his education. Franklin read numerous classics and perfected his writing style.

Over time, Franklin became a newspaper editor, printer, and merchant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, becoming very wealthy. He spent many years in England and published the famous Poor Richard's Almanack and Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin founded what is considered the first public library. During the next several years, Franklin was instrumental in establishing the first fire department, a police force, and the Academy of Philadelphia, which became the University of Pennsylvania. Among Franklin's other inventions are swim fins, the glass armonica (a musical instrument) and bifocals.

By 1730, Franklin had his own business. That same year, he married Deborah Read, a woman he met before his trip to England. Together they had a son, who died at four years of age; and a daughter, who survived them both.

In the 1740's, Franklin began experimenting with electricity, which led to the invention of the lightning rod. Around 1744, Franklin invented a stove which reduced excessive chimney smoke. The Franklin stove is still in use today.

By 1748, Franklin had sold his printing business to devote himself to his scientific experiments. His famous electricity experiment, which included flying a kite during a lightning storm took place in 1752. In addition to his science projects, Franklin was elected to the Pennsylvania assembly and held the post for 14 years. In 1753, he was appointed deputy postmaster general. The following year, Franklin became a Pennsylvania delegate to the intercolonial congress, which met in Albany. His suggestion to unite the colonies as a defense against the French and natives was considered premature and rejected.

In December, 1776, Franklin, age 71, traveled to France to successfully negotiate a treaty of commerce and defensive alliance. He remained in France for nine years, working on trade treaties. Franklin became a hero to the French, and his company was sought by diplomats and nobility.

Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1785. Two years later, he became a member of the Constitutional Convention. Franklin was bedridden during the final year of his life and died on April 17, 1790. As one of his final public acts, he signed a petition to the U.S. Congress urging the abolition of slavery, just two months before his death.


Click below for more articles of interest on Benjamin Franklin

Franklin's Unholy Ligntning Rod

After 250 Years, We Still Believe in You, Ben


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