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Benjamin Franklin Biography

Nilesh Parekh
A short biography of a successful businessman, renowned scientist, philosopher, and social worker - Benjamin Franklin.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the 'Founding Fathers' of the United States of America.
Benjamin Franklin
January 17, 1706 - April 17, 1790

Deborah Read

Sarah Franklin Bache, Francis Folger Franklin, and William Franklin

Businessman, Scientist, Philosopher, and Social Worker

Early Life

A versatile genius with proficiency in printing, writing, editing, polymath, science, inventions, politics, and diplomacy, Benjamin Franklin is one of the most prominent personality in American history.
Notably, being the sixth President of Pennsylvania (1785 - 1788), and the first US Ambassador to France, Franklin poised the political affairs of the states in an influential manner.
The inventions and discoveries by Benjamin Franklin have left a remarkable difference in the lives of people, and we continue to reap the benefits even today. Remembered for his hard work and societal good, this great man with a working class background acts as an inspiration for the rest of the world.
Benjamin Franklin was born to Josiah Franklin, who was married twice. Josiah was a soap maker, a tallow chandler, and a candle maker, born in Northamptonshire, England. He married his first wife, Annie Child in 1683, and emigrated to Boston. They both had seven children before the death of Annie.
Following Annie's Death, Josiah married another woman, Abiah Folger, and together they had ten children.
Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, at Milk Street in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the fifteenth child born to Josiah, and eighth to Abiah. Josiah wanted to provide good education to Benjamin, but just enough money to last for two years of school education.
However, Benjamin continued to study in Boston Latin School, but could not complete his graduation. He helped his father in his work for some time, and then became an apprentice for his brother, James, who owned a printing press. James founded the 'New-England Courant', which was the first truly independent paper to be supplied to the colonies.
Benjamin had an urge to write for the paper, and asked James for permission. Denied a chance, Benjamin posted letters to James under the name of 'Mrs. Silence Dogood', posing as a widow. When the letters were published, it caused a stir in society.
However, James was not pleased on finding out that it was Benjamin who was posting the letters, and stopped him from writing further. Annoyed, Benjamin left the apprenticeship and ran away from the press without any permission.
Benjamin reached Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of 17. He started working in a printing press, and later was convinced by the Governor of Pennsylvania to go to London to acquire equipment necessary to start a newspaper in Philadelphia.
The governor promised to back the newspaper, but could not keep his promise. Depressed, Benjamin returned to Philadelphia and started working for Thomas Denham, who kept him as a clerk, shopkeeper, and bookkeeper.
In 1727, Benjamin formed 'Junto', an association of people who liked to improve the society. The Junto provided a platform to people to discuss daily issues. Reading was one of the primary concern for the people of the association. But books were rare and expensive, so the members decided to make their own library, contributing their own books.
This alone could not suffice for the economical condition of the library, and a subscription library methodology was advocated by Benjamin Franklin in order to fund the association. This gave birth to the 'Library Company of Philadelphia'. Benjamin hired the world's first librarian, Louis Timothee.
In 1728, Benjamin set up a new printing press and became the publisher of a newspaper - 'The Pennsylvania Gazette'. The paper turned out to be a platform for local reforms and awakening. The essays and articles written by him earned him a lot of respect, and people started considering him as a virtuous and intellect person.

The Common Law Marriage

At the age of 17, when Benjamin went to London to acquire equipment for starting a new printing press, he proposed to a girl named Deborah Read. But Deborah's mother did not approve of the marriage, as she was uncertain of Benjamin's financial ability.
Instead, she got Deborah married to John Rodgers. Now John Rodgers, on the other hand, took the dowry and fled away to Barbados, leaving Deborah behind. The bigamy rules prevailing in those times prevented Deborah from getting married again.
In 1730, Franklin established a common law marriage with Deborah Read. Together, they had two children. The first was a boy, who was named Francis Folger Franklin. He was born in 1732, but died in 1736 because of smallpox. The second was a girl child, and was named Sarah Franklin, and was born in 1743.
In 1730, at the age of 24, Benjamin Franklin publicly acknowledged an illegitimate son, William. The boy was raised in his own household and educated in Philadelphia.

Deborah Read Franklin died in 1774, when Benjamin was out on a mission to England.

Franklin As An Author

Benjamin Franklin was a renowned writer of his time, but he usually wrote using pseudonyms. In 1733, he published 'Poor Richard's Almanack', under the pen name Richard Saunders.
He wrote the 'Poor Richard's Proverbs', with famous proverbs like - "A penny saved is two pence dear" (A penny saved is a penny earned), "Fish and visitors stink in three days", and "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail".
Franklin also wrote a number of articles for his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. He is said to have written on various subjects that includes politics science, libraries, and fire stations. In 1758, he printed 'Father Abraham's Sermone'. The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is considered to be a classic in the modern era.

Franklin - The Inventor

The various inventions by Benjamin Franklin reveal to us the versatility of this great person.

The Glass Armonica

In 1761, Franklin created the musical instrument Armonica, using glasses that were blown in proper sizes, and which created the proper pitch without having to fill them with water.
The instrument was compact and much smaller than the original one. The Armonica was quite popular in England, and great composers like Beethoven and Mozart composed music for it.

The Franklin Stove

This was invented by Franklin in the year 1742. It was one of the inventions that provided much safety to the users, unlike the stoves that produced quite a lot of smoke and were unsafe for houses made of wood.
The stove had a hood-like enclosure at its apex, and an air-box in the rear. This stove was much more efficient and also generated twice the heat. Also, the amount of wood used was less as compared to the existing stoves.

The Lightning Rod

This experiment conducted by Franklin in 1752 with the help of a kite, brought into light that lightning has an electric charge. The rod developed by Franklin helped in controlling the fires that occurred frequently during lightning and storms.
The rod was attached to the wall of a house, and was stretched to the bottom of the building, with one of its end grounded to the Earth's surface. The rod would then collect the charge from the lightning and send it to the ground, thus neutralizing the charge.
This was quite helpful, and the number of fires that occurred decreased, which made people feel safe inside their homes.

The Bifocal Lens

Disturbed by the frequent change of lenses for sighting near and far objects, he developed the bifocal lens in 1784. The bifocal lens has both lenses attached to a single frame. The distance lens was placed at the top and the up-close lens was placed beneath it. This provided a fair view of both near and far objects.


The odometer was invented by Franklin in the year 1775. Being a Postmaster General, he thought about discovering the best routes for delivering mails. The odometer helped in measuring the mileage of the routes that were attached to the carriage.

The Urinary Catheter

This invention shows the interest of Benjamin Franklin in bio-science. When his elder brother was suffering from kidney stones, he developed a urinary catheter for him. This catheter was the first to be produced in America.
Some more prominent inventions by Benjamin Franklin include Swim Fins, Long Arm (to reach for books placed at heights), and the mapping of the Gulf of Mexico.

Public Service

In 1736, Franklin organized Philadelphia's Union Fire Company. Further in 1952, he helped to find the Philadelphia Contributionship for Insurance Against Loss by Fire. The insurance policies prevail in our society till date.
In the year 1943, Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society, the first learned society to develop scientific inventions and discoveries.
He started the academy and college of Philadelphia in the year 1751, which later came to be known as the University of Pennsylvania.
Benjamin was also credited with organizing people and laying the foundation of the hospital of Pennsylvania, one of the first hospitals in free America.
He was given the post of Deputy Postmaster General of the colonies in 1753.
He organized militia companies and bought military supplies on his own credit in the French and the Indian wars during 1754 to 1760.
Franklin helped in the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766. The act was a means of collecting taxes from the people of the colonies. Before the House of Commons in England, he explained in a profound way that the act was undesirable. The repeal of the act was a major success for Franklin, and he was asked to stay in England as a representative of Pennsylvania.
Franklin tried to improve the relations between England and the American colonies, but the resentment grew day by day. Therefore, he returned to America in 1775. Soon after his return, he was made a member of the Second Continental Congress. Later he helped in drafting the Declaration of Independence.

US Ambassador To France

In 1776, Benjamin Franklin was sent to France to seek support in America's struggle for freedom. The inventions and the charisma of this fine gentleman was well-known in advance to the people of France. He was famous as Dr. Franklin there, and the public loved him.
His simplicity and dignity won the hearts of the French people. He made many friends in this country, which helped him a lot in his mission.
He worked hard in order to secure a formal recognition for his country. He persuaded the French that an alliance with the Americans would be beneficial to both parties. His hard work paid off, and the Treaty of Paris was signed on Feb.6, 1778.
King Louis XVI agreed that France would help America in its war for independence. The treaty made Benjamin a hero among his countrymen. He stayed in France as the representative of America. In the year 1781, he was among the commissioners to negotiate the peace treaty with England.
He also happened to be one of the signers of the peace treaty after the revolution was won by America. His famous words during the revolution were, "Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Journey Back Home

On September 14, 1785, when Franklin returned to Philadelphia, he was warmly greeted. There were celebrations and cannons that were fired. He was made the President of Pennsylvania Assembly. The position was held by him for over three years.
He was also made the member of the Constitutional Convention. Franklin is the only person in history to sign all the four documents that led to the foundation of the United States - the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, the Treaty of Alliance with France, and the Constitution of United States.
He started writing his autobiography in the year 1781, and finished it in 1788. Franklin was a firm supporter of freedom of speech. He was against the practice of slavery. He wrote a lot about the abolition of slavery. One of his last public acts was writing an anti-slavery treatise, in 1789.
Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at the ripe age of 84. Thousands of people attended his funeral. But the national hero is not forgotten. He is honored on money bills, coins, and postage stamps. There are a lot of educational institutions and companies which bear his name, till date.