Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin Joins the Revolution

Returning to Philadelphia from England in 1775, the "wisest American" kept his political leanings to himself. But not for long

• By Walter Isaacson
• Smithsonian.com, August 01, 2003

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Just as his son William had helped him with his famed kite-flying experiment, now William’s son, Temple, a lanky and fun-loving 15-year-old, lent a hand as he lowered a homemade thermometer into the ocean. Three or four times a day, they would take the water’s temperature and record it on a chart. Benjamin Franklin had learned from his Nantucket cousin, a whaling captain named Timothy Folger, about the course of the warm Gulf Stream. Now, during the latter half of his six-week voyage home from London, Franklin, after writing a detailed account of his futile negotiations, turned his attention to studying the current. The maps he published and the temperature measurements he made are now included on NASA’s Web site, which notes how remarkably similar they are to ones based on infrared data gathered by modern satellites. The voyage was notably calm, but in America the longbrewing storm had begun. On the night of April 18, 1775, while Franklin was in mid-ocean, a contingent of British redcoats headed north from Boston to arrest the tea party...
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