Benjamin Franklin: Interesting Facts About America's First Polymath

Interesting Facts about Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin is one of the most notable figures in the world. His personality had three facets to it; the artistic, the political, and the scientific; in fact, he was a polymath. Find more about him in these interesting facts about Benjamin Franklin.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, was also an author, printer, and satirist apart from being a leading politician and diplomat. He was a scientist and inventor known for his discoveries in electricity. Take a look at some of the interesting facts of his life.
Birth: January 17, 1706
Married to: Deborah Read
Death: April 17, 1790
Franklin in Literature
# Wrote for New England Courant as Mrs. Dogood
# For Poor Richard's Almanack as Richard Saunders
# For the Pennsylvania Gazette
Franklin's Work in Science
# Proposed Cooling by Evaporation and the Ben Franklin's Effect (psychology)
# Developed the theory of positive and negative electricity
# Invented the lightning rod, Franklin's stove, bifocal glasses, and the urinary catheter
# Conceptualized daylight savings
Franklin's Contribution to Society
# Union Fire Company
# Academy and College of Philadelphia
# American Philosophical Society
# Pennsylvania Hospital
# Age of Enlightenment Movement
# Franklin was among the authors of the United States Declaration of Independence
# One of the Founding Fathers of the United States
# Was inducted to 14 Halls of Fame
# Appeared on the first US postage stamp
# Features on the United States one-hundred dollar bill
Benjamin Franklin ~ Interesting Facts and Trivia
  • Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 to Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger. Benjamin was Josiah's fifteenth child. The place of his birth was Milk Street, Boston.
  • Franklin's mother Abiah came from the Folger family. One of their descendants was to later found the Folgers Coffee Company. Benjamin's father Josiah Franklin was a soap-maker and candle-maker. Abiah was his second wife and Benjamin, their eighth child. Benjamin was Josiah's last son.
  • Ben's mother wanted him to attend school with the clergy. Due to financial problems, Benjamin could continue schooling only for two years. He was a student of the Boston Latin School. He did not graduate.
Benjamin Franklin wrote for New England Courant
  • When Franklin was 15 years old, his brother James started an independent newspaper that was called 'New England Courant'. Benjamin wanted to write for this paper, but he was not given the opportunity. He wrote by the anonym, Mrs. Silence Dogood. When he wrote as Dogwood, his writings were critical and centered on the social status of women and the treatment they received. Ben used to slide his letters in from beneath the print shop door so that no one knew who wrote them. His writings earned popularity; everyone wanted to know who Dogwood was. No one knew that the real writer was Benjamin Franklin, until Ben himself revealed this secret, which he did after sixteen letters!
  • Soon after, James was sent to jail. Reason; he went against Boston's Puritan preachers - the Mathers who supported vaccination for smallpox which the Franklins did not. He ridiculed the clergymen. For his misconduct and his views, he was put in jail. As a result, the responsibility of looking after New England Courant came on Benjamin.
  • On James' return from jail, he was far from thankful to Ben. They did not share a cordial relationship. Circumstances made Benjamin consider running away. In October 1723, he reached Philadelphia and began to work as an apprentice printer. Impressed with his work, the governor of Pennsylvania promised to set up a printing business for Benjamin. But things didn't work out and Benjamin had to spend the next few months in England doing print work.
Benjamin Franklin developed a phonetic alphabet
  • Benjamin courted Deborah Read in 1724 and wanted to marry her. Her mother declined the proposal. Six years later, Benjamin acknowledged William as his son. Who was William's mother, is still a mystery. Later, Benjamin married Deborah. Stories have it, that Deborah had thought of Benjamin as an odd-looking man, when she saw him for the first time. But years later, it was Deborah who talked to Benjamin about marriage. They brought up William and had two children of their own.
  • In 1729, Benjamin bought Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper that he printed and also contributed writings to. Interestingly, he wrote a political cartoon for the newspaper.
  • In 1726, Benjamin returned to Philadelphia and in 1727, he established the Junto, a group of like-minded people who would strive towards improving themselves and their society. They started a subscription library, following Benjamin's idea. This idea led to the establishment of the charter of the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731. The Library Company is one of the greatest research libraries.
  • Later in life, in 1733, Benjamin wrote with the anonym, Richard Saunders, for his publication Poor Richard's Almanack. This time too, his writings became popular. His other literary works included satirical essays and the development of an innovative phonetic alphabet that excluded letters c, j, q, w, x, and y. However, the new alphabet did not become popular. He spoke French with a stutter.
  • He could play musical instruments like the guitar, harp, and violin. He invented the glass harmonica. He has a few musical compositions to his name.
  • He was fortunate to witness the first manned balloon flight in France.
Benjamin Franklin proposed Cooling by Evaporation
  • According to a story, Benjamin Franklin was once unable to witness a lunar eclipse due to a storm moving from the southwest. He had observed that the prevailing winds were from the northeast. This led him to infer that storms do not necessarily move in the direction of the prevailing wind.
  • Once, Franklin observed that he remained cooler wearing a wet shirt on a hot sunny day. This made him propose one of the very important principles of refrigeration, 'Cooling by Evaporation'.
  • It was Benjamin Franklin who conceived the idea of daylight savings.
  • Did you know about the Ben Franklin Effect? It's a psychological finding by Franklin himself. According to him, someone who has done you a favor is more likely to do you another than someone you have obliged by being kind to. Like in case of doing someone a favor, the Ben Franklin effect also applies to doing someone harm. According to the proposition, a person who harms someone once is more likely to harm again, than the person harmed is, to revenge.
  • Franklin's kite-flying during a storm led to some important theories related to electricity. He gathered electric charge on his kite from lightning thus demonstrating the electrical nature of lightning.
Benjamin Franklin Effect
  • Some of his other inventions include, lightning rod, Franklin's stove, bifocal glasses, and the urinary catheter. He did not like patenting inventions. He thought that his inventions gave him an opportunity to serve the society.
  • Benjamin Franklin founded the Union Fire Company, a fire-fighting company in America. He presided over the Academy and College of Philadelphia. He served as the Justice of Peace for Philadelphia. Some of his other notable contributions were in founding the American Philosophical Society, the Pennsylvania Hospital, and the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire. He was appointed as the deputy postmaster-general of North America, where he was instrumental in bringing reforms to the postal system. He appeared on the first postage stamp of the US. He was the head of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress in 1754. Benjamin Franklin was active in the Pontiac's rebellion and in the opposition of the 1765 Stamp Act in London.
  • The Harvard and Yale Universities awarded him honorary degrees. In 1762, the Oxford University honored him with a doctorate.
  • He was one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. He became an ambassador to the Court of Louis XVI. It was largely due to his popularity that a Treaty of Alliance was signed between the French and the Americans. Franklin was a key player in the American Enlightenment, which was a part of the great intellectual movement called the Age of Enlightenment. In 1789, he authored the anti-slavery treatise.
  • Benjamin Franklin passed away on 17th April, 1790. His autobiography that was published after his death is one of the classics.
Franklin belongs to over 10 different Halls of Fame, precisely 14. Over 30 colonies of the United States renamed themselves to honor Benjamin Franklin. Today, Franklin is the first most common name for cities incorporated in the United States. Clinton and Washington follow.
Franklin's life and work put forth another important facet of his personality. He was a man of virtue, great potential, and humility.