Benjamin Franklin A Public Speaker History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
This man was not talented at public speaking yet preferring to write out his thoughts on paper and let someone else read it out. He was never the president but a signatory of all four major documents of the founding of the United States. He had definitely never joined the military. However, he was certainly a well- known character, beloved by everyone. He is Benjamin Franklin, one of the most famous people of his generation, his country, his country’s history and the world. He was one of the pioneer and most famous scientist and a conspicuous inventor. He was a prominent political figure as well as respected scholar. He was a man of many talents and interests. He lived longer than most men of his age thus had more impact on the United States and world affairs than any other American. His contributions in many different fields advanced the world immensely. Those influences on the scientific world were what make him particularly one of the most important figures of the millennium.
Being an audacious man, Franklin had applied and was employed in many jobs because of his wisdom as well as a nice personality. His various working experience may help explain his large array of inventions and new methods applying to different jobs. He was mostly well- known for his ideas on electricity, but he also experimented with other concepts in nature. He did various things from growing cabbages more efficiently and making political decisions to being the first person to study and chart the movement of the Gulf Stream located the Atlantic Ocean. This America’s Renaissance man was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1706 to Josiah and Abiah Franklin. His family had seventeen children and he was the fifteenth. His parents were the hard working couple who made candles and soap for a living, trying to raise seventeen children. Since the Franklins were so poor, it is perhaps not surprising that with that many children, the family did not always have a lot of money. Little Franklin could not afford to go to Boston Latin School for any longer than two years. He understood that he must fend for himself much of the time. Living in that condition for the entire childhood developed in Franklin an independent and a problem solving nature which later became very helpful. In those two years at school, however, Franklin tried the best to learn to read which thus opened the door to further education for him. He knew he had very poor mathematical skills and was only a fair writer, he tutored himself at home.
Benjamin Franklin proved to be a determined young man. As a boy, he taught himself to enhance his writing skills, from being a fair to an excelled writer. He also learned basic mathematics, logic, grammar, physical sciences and navigation which benefited him when he came to invent. He partially mastered many languages. With that much effort, meritoriously, he was named the best-educated man in the United States, a very honorable accolade. When he was twelve years old, young Franklin started working as an apprentice at the print shop of the second independent newspaper in the colonies “New England Courant” of his brother, James Franklin. He learned a lot about printing and writing through this first job. Many people believed that one newspaper was enough for America and they told him that this paper would soon go bankrupt. On the contrary, it became very prominent as many readers favored reading it. However, Benjamin was forbidden to “write for the paper”, said his brother, so he invented a pseudonym of Mrs. Silence Dogood. The comments of the mysterious woman about the society were published and became a popular subject of conversations around town. When his older brother discovered that the “scandalous” writing belonged to young Benjamin, he was furious and he told Benjamin to stop messing around. Benjamin liked the printer’s job but he couldn’t stand being told what to do all the time though the commands were from his brother. In addition, James’s attitude about Mrs. Dogood made Benjamin desperately felt the need to be no one’s but his own boss. He quitted his apprenticeship without permission and confidently convinced himself: “That day would come”, when he could make a business’s his to control.
He became restive and ran away from home, as if being a fugitive is a theme of his life. He was seventeen, and the nature of an independent man motivated him to get away from his family to live his own life, experiencing new things. In 1730, seven years after he left his home, Franklin married Deborah Read, the daughter of the first Philadelphia landlady. Read was not nearly well- educated as her husband. In old love letters that she had written to him, there were many misspellings and improper punctuation marks. Despite their differences, they were a very happy couple. They eventually had two sons, William and Francis, and one daughter named Sarah.
When Franklin reached the age of 21, he decided to be a civic leader to start his career. He organized a club of aspiring tradesmen called the Junto, which held meeting every week for discussions and planning. They hoped to build their own business that could ensure the growth of Philadelphia and improve the local life standards. Franklin later led the University of Junto in founding a library in 1731, the first American fire company in 1736, a learning society in 1743, and an insurance company. By 1749, Franklin had been elected to the Common Council of Philadelphia and named a justice of the peace. He was inspired to publish a pamphlet in which he called for the creation of an academy and outlined the curriculum that he considered proper for such a school. The result of his proposal was the founding of the Philadelphia Academy, an institute that grew to become the famous present University of Pennsylvania. Also in 1752, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed a proposal of Franklin in establishing the Pennsylvania Hospital. As one of the governor of Philadelphia, he used all his power to promote a better life for the people. This characteristic was one of the reasons he was respected and remembered by the Americans. The Junto also worked to pave, clean, and light the streets, making them safe by arranging an effective night watch to protect people in the area. They even formed a voluntary militia. Franklin’s leadership skills helped himself and others throughout much of his life.
In 1731, Franklin published a German- language newspaper since he saw a market for such a publication among the many immigrants who were coming to Pennsylvania at that time. Sadly it was abortive; nevertheless, as people believe, a failure is the mother of success, Franklin kept working. During the same year he began publishing what would become influential and considered an extreme success annual work, the Poor Richard’s Almanack. Franklin published his almanac under the guise of a man named Richard Saunders, a poor man who needed money to take care of his handicapped wife. All the printers wanted to publish the annual work, which featured a calendar that showed the phases of the moon, predicted the weather and tides, and gave other cooking recipes and agricultural information. What distinguished Franklin’s almanac were his witty aphorisms and lively writing. The Poor Richard’s Almanack was an unprecedented success; in the colonies, only the Bible sold more. The proverbs and maxims in this famous annual work were endlessly quoted and repeated over the years, until they became the common sense of millions of Americans.
Unsurprisingly, Franklin stumbled upon a new career in his mid- thirty: inventing. In 1740, he modified his heating stove by arranging the fuel so that the stove would heat the room twice while using only one-fourth of the fuel than usual. There would be more heat but less smoke. His idea was based on the experiment of an unknown French philosopher. The stove was first called the Pennsylvania fireplace; however it later named the Franklin stove, showing respect to the inventor. The Franklin stove heated the homes and business all over Europe and North America, saving and pleasuring thousands human lives from the deadly cold winters.
Franklin began to read about new discoveries including electricity around the time he invented the stove. Decided to start experimenting with electricity, he asked for help from his friends in Philadelphia, Peter Collinson. He stated after experiments carried out in France in 1752, that lightning was actually a form of electricity. Determined to further establish his belief that lightning was electricity, he performed his famous kite experiment. He flew a kite with a metal needle attached to the tip on a very fine metal wire. He had a key attached to the wire and hypothesized that the key would spark while absorbing the electricity. On May 25, 1747, Franklin sent Collinson a detailed report of his experiment, and his friend read it to the Royal Society of London, the most important scientific body of the day. In this world- changing report, Franklin announced his discovery that a pointed metal rod would draw off the charge from an electrified object when the point was brought near the object. Electricity, Franklin hypothesized, was “an element diffused among, and attracted by other matter, particularly by water and metals”. The experiment was a big success. Today, some people mistook the fact that Franklin “invented” electricity. However, the direct effect of his work with lightning as electricity was his invention of the lightning rod. On March 2, 1750, Franklin proposed Collinson that the pointed rod attached to the tops of buildings might attract electricity from storm clouds and thus protect structures from damage. The first lightning rod he made was attached to the top of his own house. Soon after, as a storm swept through, the lightning hit the rod instead of his house, leaving the latter intact. He said of the lightning rod, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The news spread out then reached the Royal Society’s publications. Later, buildings as well as ships all over the world were equipped with Franklin’s newest invention. It made Franklin world famous. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1756. It was rare for a colonist to be elected to the London- based elite society.
Franklin always had to work with great personal risk when dealing with electricity since he owned serious scientific interests. Once, while attempting to kill a turkey with electricity, he accidentally knocked himself unconscious. Eventually, these shocks would, he later wrote, “afford some temporary improvements to those suffering from paralytics”. Of the event he said, “I meant to kill a turkey, and instead, I nearly killed a goose.” The statement gave a general idea of his personalities. Being a genius and gaining worldwide fame did not change him. He stayed the same as young, unknown Benjamin Franklin, an apprentice of a printing shop. The Franklin stove and the lightning rod were by far obviously not the only things Franklin invented. Since he was little, he had poor vision and needed glasses to read. He got tired of constantly taking them off and putting them back on, so he decided to figure out a way to make his glasses that enable him see both near and far. He had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame. Today, we call them bifocals. Thanks to the devoted scientist that most of short- sighted and long- sighted victims don’t have to suffer being figuratively “blind”.
Although Franklin lived most of his life in the city, he had extensive interests in agriculture and farming. He introduced Native American plants to Europe and some European plants to America. He published some books on agriculture and botany, suggested implementing crop insurance, advocated a silk industry for the British colonies, and helped educate people in the use of gypsum as a fertilizer. He especially showed Americans how to neutralize acidic soil by using lime before planting. These tips made the land much more cultivable and eventually improved the Natives’ economy and social life. He discovered that when oil is poured into rough seas, the water is calmed and more easily navigable.
In the early 1760’s, Franklin took the title of Postmaster in Philadelphia. He decided to better the mail route by abridging it. He invented a simple odometer and attached it to his carriage. With it, he measured the route and calculated a more efficient course by which to deliver the mail. This shortened the time required to get mail by days in some cases. Once again, his work showed his desired to better people’s lives. With a shorter mail route, people got closer. From east to west, from north to south, his simple invention connected the world.
Franklin discovered that diseases flourished in poorly vented places. This lead to sterile hospital’s rooms hence better health care. Franklin also established several notable improvements to postal service while he was serving as Joint Postmaster General for the Crown. He stared by taking a tour to most of the major postal offices in the colonies to investigate their operations and to identify ways of improving service. Under Franklin, routes were surveyed, milestones were placed on the main roads, and better, more direct routes were set up between the colonies. Franklin also established faster postal service between Philadelphia and New York by having the weekly mail wagon travel at night as well as during the day. Always intrigued by the sea, Franklin produced the first chart of the Gulf Stream. He followed the observations that were made in 1770 that merchant ships crossed the Atlantic, from east to west, were two weeks faster than the mail ships. In 1775 he used a thermometer to aid navigation in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and, as late as 1785, was devising ways of measuring the temperature at a depth of 98ft. During Franklin’s lifetime, he had a total of eight voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. These long journeys gave him a lot of time to learn about ships and how they worked. As early as 1784, Franklin suggested following the Chinese model of dividing ships’ holds into watertight compartments so that if a leak occurred in one compartment, the water would not spread throughout the hold and sink the ship. With this idea, he once again had saved a lot of lives.
Although Benjamin Franklin had invented many things in his life time, he refused to patent any one of them. His philosophy was that it is better to help everyone than it is to help one’s self. His experiments and inventions were meant only to be used for the convenience of other people, not to gain himself any money or fame. Other than inventing things to improve people’s lives, Franklin created new techniques to aid people in doing all sorts of things. Even though Franklin is not famous for his study of bioscience, he was interested in how the human body works and looked for ways to help it works better. For example, Franklin’s older brother John suffered from kidney stones and he wanted to alleviate the pain. For that reason, Franklin developed a flexible urinary catheter that appeared to be the first one produced in America.
With anything he needed to deal with, Franklin always gave very logical opinions on it. For instance, during Franklin’s life, many people complained about daylight saving time. It was inconvenient for them to set their clocks back and ahead annually. Franklin was intrigued by the concept. He was quoted saying, “It is silly and wasteful that people should live much by candle- light and sleep by sunshine.” In Paris while observing the first successful hot air balloon flight, Franklin observed many skeptic people asking, “What good is it?” He replied, “What good is a newborn baby?” With his intelligence, he could see potential in all new things.
He was not only a scientist but also a beloved politician of Americans. Another essential contribution of Benjamin Franklin toward the United States, as both a politician and a writer, was his ideas for the first Declaration of Independence of America. Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked on a committee of five people that helped to draft the Declaration. Even though much of the writing was Thomas Jefferson’s, much of the contribution was Franklin’s. Honorably, in 1776, Franklin signed the Declaration. Later on, in 1787, Franklin served as a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention. He held an honorary position and seldom engaged in debate.
In his old age, Franklin retired from business and public service and wanted to spend his time reading and studying. He found, however, that his old age had made it difficult for him to reach books from the high shelves. Even though he had many grandchildren to help him, he invented a tool called a long arm to reach the high books. The long arm was a long wooden pole with a grasping claw at the end. He possibly could never get tired of thinking, inventing and helping others. One of his last public acts was writing an anti-slavery treaty in 1789. Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84. More than twenty thousand people attended at the funeral of the man who was called “the harmonious human multitude.” His great personalities as well as inventions, however, still brighten the world.
I don’t accede ranking him number sixty-eight on the list. Benjamin Franklin deserved a much better place on the rank due to all his valuable devotion toward the development of science, the United States and the world. He had been hard working, making tireless efforts to achieve his goal. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. Human lives has enhanced, thank to all his inventions. As a politician, he formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania. As an American’s first “pop” philosopher and moralist, Franklin must be credited for forming and shaping a large part of the characteristic outlook and values of American culture. Just considered how important the Poor Richard’s Almanack was to the society at that time. A signatory of all four of the major documents of the founding of the United States including the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, the Treaty of Alliance with France, and the United States Constitution, Franklin is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His pervasive influence in the early history of the United States has led to his being jocularly called “the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States.” In fact, he always tried his best to fulfill his dream. No matter how old he was, his desire to help making a better life on earth never faded away. He made the world became a better place to live and gave happiness to others’ lives. He inspired the curiosity and passion of his descendants. Later on, other famous inventors like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell would follow Franklin’s footsteps by trying to find ways to help people live better. Today’s curious thinkers are keeping Franklin’s traditions alive by inventing and improved ways to make things work. Considering all the achievements he had made, all the devotion he had given to his nation and the world in general, I strongly believe he should be in the top twenty of a hundred people mentioned instead of sixty- eight.
Benjamin Franklin’s name and reputation will live on forever not only in history books but also in the hundreds of inventions, improvements, discoveries and methods he had devised during his eighty-four year of age stay in the fields of politics, science, and humanity. What would the world be today had Benjamin Franklin not lived?
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