Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston. His father, Josiah Franklin, a tallow chandler by trade (someone who trades the hard fat from cattle, sheep, or horses which was used for candles, soaps, and lubricants) had 17 children; Benjamin was the 15th child and the 10th son. His mother, Abiah Folger, was his father’s second wife. The Franklin family was Generally, like most New Englanders of the time. After his attendance at grammar school from age 8 to 10, Benjamin was taken into his father’s business. Finding the work unpleasant, however, he entered the employ of a cutler (someone who makes cutlery).
At age 13 he was apprenticed to his brother James, who had recently returned from England with a new printing press. Benjamin learned the printing trade, devoting his spare time to trying to improve his education. When he acquired a copy of the third volume of the Spectator by the British statesmen and essayists Sir Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, he set himself the goal of mastering its writing style. As a result of disagreements with James, Benjamin left Boston and made his way to Philadelphia, arriving in October 1723.
There he worked at his trade and made numerous friends, among whom was Sir William Keith, the local governor of Pennsylvania. He persuaded Franklin to go to London to complete his training as a printer and to purchase the equipment needed to start his own printing establishment in Philadelphia. Young Franklin took this advice, arriving in London in December 1724. Not having received from Keith certain promised letters of introduction and credit, Franklin found himself, at age 18, without means in a strange city. With characteristic resourcefulness, he obtained employment at two of the foremost printing houses in London.
Palmer’s and Watt’s. His appearance, bearing, and accomplishments soon won him the recognition of a number of the most distinguished figures in the literary and publishing world. Franklin engaged in many public projects. In 1731 he founded what was probably the first public library in America, chartered in 1742 as the Philadelphia Library. He first published Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732, under the pen name Richard Saunders. This modest volume quickly gained a wide and appreciative audience, and its homespun, practical wisdom exerted a pervasive influence upon the American character.
In 1736 Franklin became clerk of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the next year was appointed deputy postmaster of Philadelphia. About this time, he organised the first fire company in that city and introduced methods for the improvement of street paving and lighting. Always interested in scientific studies, he devised means to correct the excessive smoking of chimneys and invented, around 1744, the Franklin stove, which furnished greater heat with a reduced consumption of fuel. In 1747 Franklin began his electrical experiments with a simple apparatus that he received from Peter Collinson in England.
He advanced a reasonable theory of the Leyden jar*, supported the hypothesis that lightning is an electrical phenomenon, and proposed an effective method of demonstrating this fact. His plan was published in London and carried out in England and France before he himself performed his celebrated experiment with the kite in 1752. He invented the lightning rod and offered what is called the one-fluid theory in explanation of the two kinds of electricity, positive and negative. In recognition of his impressive scientific accomplishments, Franklin received honorary degrees from the University of St.
Andrews and the University of Oxford. He also became a member of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, which, in 1753, was awarded its Copley Medal for distinguished contributions to experimental science. Franklin also exerted a great influence on education in Pennsylvania. In 1749 he wrote Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania; its publication led to the establishment in 1751 of the Philadelphia Academy, later to become the University of Pennsylvania.
The curriculum he suggested was a considerable departure from the program of classical studies then in vogue. English and modern foreign languages were to be emphasised as well as mathematics and science. In 1748 Franklin sold his printing business and, in 1750, was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly, in which he served until 1764. In 1775 Franklin travelled to Canada, suffering great hardship along the way, in a vain effort to enlist the co-operation and support of Canada in the Revolution.
Upon his return, he became one of the five chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence. He was also one of the signers of it, addressing the assembly with the characteristic statement: We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. One of his last public acts was to sign a petition to the U. S. Congress, on February 12, 1790, as president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, urging the abolition of slavery and the suppression of the slave trade. Two months later, on April 17, Franklin died in his Philadelphia home at 84 years of age.
Works Cited Leyden Jar, one of the earliest and simplest forms of electric capacitor, discovered independently about 1745 by the Dutch physicist Pieter van Musschenbroek of the University of Leyden and Ewald Georg von Kleist of Pomerania. The original Leyden jar was a stoppered glass jar containing water, with a wire or nail extending through the stopper into the water. The jar was charged by holding it in one hand and bringing the exposed end of the wire into contact with an electrical device.
If contact was broken between the wire and the source of electricity, and the wire was touched with the other hand, a discharge took place that was experienced as a violent shock. The present-day Leyden jar is coated with tinfoil on the inside and outside. Electrical contact is made with a brass rod that punctures the stopper of the jar and is connected to the inside layer of metal by a chain. A complete discharge occurs when the two coatings are connected with each other by a conductor. The Leyden jar is still frequently used in laboratories for demonstration and experimental purposes.