4 December 2012
Benjamin Franklin: Citizen and Scientist
“Come along, lads!” cries a young Benjamin Franklin to his group of schoolmates. Running and jumping, the boys make their way to the Charles River on a warm Boston day. Reaching the river, young Ben dives in straight away, while the other boys gingerly slip into the calm waters. Ben was always a very confident and strong swimmer, and strikes out with his arms at the blue water in a familiar stroke as his friends splash about. From a distance, he observes his fellow lads as he bobs in the water, catching his breath. He was quite some distance away from shore now, floating on his back and gazing at the clear blue sky in front of him. Then suddenly, in this moment of relaxed clarity, an idea pops into his mind. It was so obvious, a simple solution to aid his swimming abilities. He swims back quickly to his friends, eager to share his new idea for an invention. “Fins!” he exclaims as he reaches the boys. Upon meeting their confused looks, Ben begins to explain his idea of how to make swimming easier and more efficient after experiencing the wear that swimming a long distance takes. In order to swim more easily like the other aquatic creatures he observes in the river, he would construct swimming fins for his hands and feet. His friends laughs excitedly at the image of Ben with fins strapped to his hands and feet, and he joins in. He knows that to most lads, a boy with fins would appear foolish, but he is certain that such a thing would make swimming great distances easier. As the other boys turn their thoughts to boyish antics and schoolboy gossip, Ben’s sharp mind begins to map out his construction of his newest invention. It would be this same mind, refined through strict moral structure and expanded with knowledge as he grew up, that would one day construct some of the most elaborate and cutting edge scientific experiments of his age, as well help craft vital documents that would help form a new nation. My research tells me that it would be Benjamin Franklin’s virtues, both individually and collectively, that would enable his passion for knowledge and sense of curiosity to make him a successful citizen scientist.
At age twenty-five, Josiah Franklin made the decision to move his growing family of two young children, an infant baby girl, and his wife to America. The voyage was long and difficult, not to mention costly for a tradesman such as Josiah, but in all would prove to be a wise investment (Isaacson 10). Born on the seventeenth of January in 1706, Benjamin Franklin was the tenth son of Josiah Franklin, whose mother was Abiah Folger, Josiah’s second wife according to ushistory.org.
A few years later, when Benjamin Franklin was born, Boston was then 76 years old and was a blossoming center of trade and business (15). But rather than have his son continue in the family business of soap and candle making, Josiah intended to see his son become a clergyman. After only being able to afford to send young Ben to school for this for no more than a year, Josiah decided to apprentice the twelve year old to his seventeen-year senior stepbrother James, who was a printer. He always had a love for reading and writing, so shortly after becoming an apprentice Franklin began to write secretly for his brother’s newspaper, using the name “Silence Dogood.” Posing as a fictitious widow, he would write his own advice and views to be published. When Franklin admitted to writing the letters, James was not amused and was jealous of the attention his brother received for them. But young Ben continued to work for him until 1723, when his brother’s strict and controlling appointment over him finally led him to run away, something that was illegal at the time (ushistory.org).
In just the six years after he would leave Boston, Franklin would travel to London, return and open his own print shop, and then buy the Pennsylvania Gazette, which...