Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) was an American statesman, inventor, diplomat, writer, and scientist. This leading figure in the American struggle for independence was one of the most versatile and talented men in colonial America.
Born in Boston, Franklin apprenticed to his brother, a printer, and began writing anonymously for his brother’s newspaper. He moved to Philadelphia, then to London, and returned to Philadelphia and established himself as a printer. He bought the Pennsylvania Gazette and turned it into one of the American colonies’ major newspapers. He also wrote and published Poor Richard’s Almanack, an astronomy journal, under the pseudonym Richard Saunders. The Almanack became well known for the witty proverbs and maxims that Franklin included as fillers.
A leading delegate to the Continental Congress, Franklin became its architect. He was the only individual to sign all the three principal documents of the new nation: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with Great Britain that ended the American Revolution, and the US Constitution.
Franklin held various government posts, including that of the deputy paymaster general of the colonies, and emissary to France and Great Britain. Franklin was also involved in many public projects, including founding the American Philosophical Society, a subscription library, and, in 1751, an academy which later became the University of Pennsylvania.
Franklin’s foremost scientific achievements were the formulation of a theory of electricity, which introduced positive and negative electricity, the demonstration of the electrical nature of lightning. His primary inventions were the lightning conductor, the “Franklin stove” (a kind of freestanding cast-iron heater) and bifocal spectacles.
Franklin was legendary for his lifelong quest for self-improvement, as he thoroughly documented in his Autobiography (1791.)
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