Benjamin Franklin was an incredibly important scientist, inventor, and politician in American history. His achievements during his life were many and wide-ranging, and it could be argued that the United States would be a very different place today if he had never existed.
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In the following article, we'll take a quick look at some of his most important achievements. These range from his many inventions to his important work in the crafting of the United States Constitution, and foundation of some important American institutions.
What is Benjamin Franklin most famous for?
How long is a piece of string? Benjamin Franklin was something of a very high achiever.
Amongst his many achievements, a few of which we have included later in this article, he led an illustrious political career, was Postmaster of Philadelphia, Ambassador to France and President of Pennsylvania and a founding father of the United States.
He was also a prolific inventor, scientific enquirer and strong advocate for freedom and liberty for all. Unsurprisingly, Franklin is still fondly remembered today, and is sometimes jocularly called “the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States.”
Who is Benjamin Franklin and why is he important?
Benjamin Franklin was an American Polymath and one of the Founder of the United States. He is was well renowned in his time as an author, printer, political theorist, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.
His scientific exploits were many, and he became a shining light during the American Enlightenment and is well regarded in the history of physics as a whole. He devised various important inventions too including the lightning rod, bifocals, and many more.
He would later found many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia's first fire department and the University of Pennsylvania, and was an important figure during the War of Independence from the British Empire.
1. The Franklin Stove was revolutionary
In 1740, Benjamin Franklin invented his now-famous Franklin Stove. This freestanding stove produced more heat for less fuel compared to contemporaries of the period.
The stove was actually a specially designed fireplace that had a hollow baffle near the rear to transfer more heat from the fire to the room's air. Hot fumes and smoke from the fire were drawn over an "inverted siphon" to achieve this effect and help produce less smoke than ordinary fireplaces.
Smoke and other exhaust gases were then channeled up the chimney. Unfortunately for Franklin, it wasn't a massive commercial success until it was later improved by David Rittenhouse.
2. Franklin also invented a new musical instrument
Benjamin Franklin also turned his hand to creating new forms of musical instrument. Chief amongst them was his interesting glass instrument called the Armonica.
The Armonica was invented in around 1761 and its name derives from the Italian word "Armonia" meaning harmony.
You are probably familiar with so-called "glass harps" or "musical glasses" whereby players rub their fingers around the rims of water-filled wine glasses. The Armonica is, in essence, and descendant of this ancient technique.
Franklin's Armonica, used a series of glass bowls, or goblets, of graduated size that produced musical tones through friction. It was played by rotating the glasses around a central shaft.
Both Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed music for the strange instrument. Today, similar devices are known more commonly as friction idiophones.
3. Benjamin Franklin actually invented Bifocals
Benjamin Franklin is commonly credited with the invention of bifocal glasses. Whilst there is some debate about whether this is true, there is strong evidence to show that this is indeed true.
It may be the case that bifocals are yet another example of an invention that is independently developed by multiple people over time. Whatever is the case, like all great inventions, they were the product of the inventor's own frustration with something in the world.
In this case, Benjamin Franklin has become so tired of his own aging eyes that he decided to do something about it. Through trial and error, he finally managed to produce a pair of glasses that allowed him to see close-up and far away without the need to change his glasses.
4. He helped pen the American Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution
Probably his most important accomplishment was being one of the authors of the American Declaration of Independence. In 1776 he appointed as a member of the Committee of Five that would go on to draft the Declaration.
Franklin, then of advanced age, was temporarily disabled by gout and unable to attend most meetings of the Committee, Franklin made several "small but important" changes to the draft sent to him by Thomas Jefferson.
At the signing, he is quoted as having replied to a comment by John Hancock that they must all hang together: "Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Franklin was a very strong advocate for the right to free speech and, in 1787, also signed one of the most important documents of all time. The United States Constitution.
To this day, it remains one of the bastions of legal protection for individual liberty in the world.
5. He was the first Postmaster General of the United States
In 1737, Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the very first Postmaster for Philadelphia by the British Crown Post. A post he held until 1753.
Franklin threw himself into the task and implemented many effective measures that enabled his post office to become the first profitable one in any British colony of the time.
In 1775, when the Second Continental Congress established the United States Post Office, Franklin was made its postmaster general due to his experience in the field.
Franklin's postal service still exists, more or less, today but was renamed the United States Postal Service in the early 1970s.
6. He helped create the First American Political Cartoon
The freedom to openly criticize politicians and other powerful figures in society is critical to freedom of thought and speech. Whilst an announce to those who hold power, it is vitally important that political satire remains vigorous and unimpeded in a free society.
For this reason, Franklin and Hugh Meredith bought the newspaper the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729. He not only owned the paper but also wrote satirical pieces in it under the aliases.
Join, or Die, the very first political cartoon in America was personally created by Benjamin in 1754. It later became an important symbol of colonial unity during the revolution and remains popular.
7. And finally, his famous Lighting Rod
Franklin, apart from being a prolific inventor, is also well known for his scientific experimentation. Most notably his work on electricity and lightning.
He conducted extensive experiments in the field of electricity, and made some very important discoveries. For example, he was one of the first people to propose that electricity consisted of two opposing forces.
He suggested that it actually moves from one body to another and even coined the terms positive, negative, battery, charge, and conductor. He is probably best known for his work with lighting and was adamant that lighting was a form of electricity.
His experiments, including his famous Kite experiment, enabled him to create a device that would protect buildings from the destructive force of lightning. Thus the lightning rod, which protects structures by earthing, was invented.