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Who is Benjamin Franklin?

By J.Gunsch
Updated May 23, 2024
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Benjamin Franklin was a man of many talents; an accomplished inventor, philosopher, writer, statesman, economist and musician. His eclectic and active life earned him the titles both of the model American citizen and one of the founding fathers of the United States. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1706 although he considered Philadelphia, Pennsylvania his hometown. He died in 1790 at the age of 84 and is buried in Philadelphia.

At the young age of 12, Benjamin Franklin became an apprentice to his older brother James who was a printer and ran a newspaper in Boston. The newspaper titled The New England Courant, was the first of its kind in Boston. At age 15, Franklin desperately wanted to write for the paper. Knowing that his brother would not allow him to do so, he created the pen name Silence Dogood for himself; a widow who criticized society, especially the treatment of women, through letters slipped under the door at night. Franklin’s writings became extremely popular and fueled intense jealousy from his brother when he revealed that he was the author.

Among his many accomplishments, Franklin is renowned for his scientific work with electricity. He was the first to prove that lightning was in fact electricity. He did this by developing his famous kite experiment which intended to extract electricity from a developing storm. Although he designed the experiment, he was not the first person to carry it out. From his work in electricity, he invented the lightning rod, which is designed to protect tall structures from being struck and damaged during electrical storms.

Benjamin Franklin is one of the founding fathers of the United States. He was instrumental in securing military and financial assistance from France which was critical in the young nation’s independence from British rule. His wisdom lives on in many popular adages that are spoken today. He wrote “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing,” which he unquestionably made true for himself. Some of his other popular quotes include:

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.”

“He is ill clothed that is bare of virtue.”

“But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

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Discussion Comments
By sehiggins — On Jun 18, 2011

As elementary students, we aren't exposed to the sometimes disappointing truths about our Founding Fathers. It's not until high school or college that we discover that they, like most wealthy men in colonial America, were slave owners. Benjamin Franklin is no exception to this trend, as he too was a owned slaves.

However, Franklin, later in his life, sold all of his slaves. Not only that, but he also became a prominent abolitionist. I was very pleased when I learned this fact about him. It is refreshing to know that he was different than most men of his time, and was determined to live by his values.

By Farah1 — On Jun 15, 2011

Benjamin Franklin was truly a Renaissance man. Every time I learn something new about him, it amazes me just how versatile his skills and knowledge were. From a statesmen, to a scientist, and to a philosopher, whatever field he applied his talents to, he excelled.

I recently learned that Franklin was the United States's first ambassador to France. He was a key player in securing a positive relationship between America and France, and was praised by both nations for being a great diplomat.

Some have called him "The First American", as wherever he traveled, he always emphasized the importance of colonial unity. He personified all of the qualities of the patriarchs of the American Revolution, including hard work, thrift, education, and community.

He is one of the most celebrated of America's Founding Fathers, and his praise is fully deserved.

By tlcJPC — On Jun 15, 2011

Benjamin Franklin was no doubt a true leader and history maker. I am a former teacher, and most of my students actually thought that he was a president at some point, too.

Imagine their surprise when I explained that he was a founding father who had signed the Declaration of Independence but had never been president.

The fact is, however, that you could argue that Franklin was just as much as an integral molder of American history as many of the president’s that we have had, and perhaps even more so than some.

One thing is for sure; he was a man ahead of his time and a great one at that.

By Domido — On Jun 15, 2011

I believe that good ole Ben was also the one who said, “God helps those who help themselves.” The funny thing about that is that Benjamin Franklin was a deist who actually did not believe in God in the conventional way of the Christians during the time that he lived.

Interestingly enough, being a deist was a trend during the time in which Mr. Franklin lived. I believe that the major concept was more or less that there was a greater spirit, but that great spirit resided in us all. Also, it seems that there was some sort of believe that this greater spirit resided in all things found in nature.

However, history shows that he was not one of the founding fathers who was of the Christian faith at all. There were many of Ben Franklin's fellow founding fathers who were also deist as well.

By anon163185 — On Mar 26, 2011

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