Printer, writer, scientist, statesman.
Born January 17, 1706, in Boston,Massachusetts. The 15th child in his family, Franklin went to work at age10 in his father’s chandlery, then in a brother’s printing house. Ambitiousand intent on self-improvement, he became a skilled printer while readingwidely and developing a writing style. In 1723, at age 17, Franklin leftfor Philadelphia. Starting with no capital, he advanced rapidly and, aftera brief stint as a printer in London, had by 1730 become sole owner of abusiness that included the Pennsylvania Gazette. In 1732, Franklin beganpublishing the annual Poor Richard’s Almanac.
It attracted a largereadership and made Franklin’s name a household word. Active in thecommunity, Franklin founded a discussion group called the Junta thatevolved into the American Philosophical Association and helped establishthe first U.S. lending library , as well as an academy that evolved intothe University of Pennsylvania. Appointed as a clerk in the PennsylvaniaAssembly, Franklin held a seat there from 1751 to 1764. He served as a citydeputy postmaster, he improved postal efficiency and made the postalservice solvent.In 1748, his business having expanded, Franklin retired, turning it over tohis foreman, thus gaining more time for scientific pursuits.
In the early1740s, he had developed the fuel-efficient Franklin open stove. Later heconducted a series of experiments, described in his Experiments andObservations on Electricity (1751–53), which brought him internationalrecognition as a scientist. In 1752, Franklin conducted his famous kiteexperiment, demonstrating that lightning is an electrical discharge; healso announced his invention of the lightning rod. A later invention forwhich Franklin is well-known was the bifocal lens (1760).Franklin represented Pennsylvania at the Albany Congress in 1754, called inresponse to the French and Indian Wars. He pursued diplomatic activities inEngland, obtaining permission for Pennsylvania to tax the estates of itsproprietors, securing repeal of the Stamp Act, and representing theinterests of several colonies. Franklin went to France to help negotiatetreaties of commerce and allianceReturning to the U.
S. in 1785, Franklin served as a conciliating presenceat the Constitutional Convention. In his last years he corresponded widely,received many visitors, and invented a device for lifting books from highshelves.