19 November 2011
Say the name Benjamin Franklin and you may picture a chubby man with spectacles holding a kite during a lightening storm. Perhaps you picture him a older man with spectacles propped up on his nose standing in a great room full of distinguished gentlemen signing the Declaration of Independence. Both of these facts about Benjamin Franklin's life would be true. However, there was so much more to Mr. Franklin. He was a diplomat, a statesman, a scientist, and a writer. His contributions to our society were more than just to America but to the world. For the purpose of this paper we will just discuss the inventions he produced which had a world impact. (Fish 2).
Ben Franklin was born 17 January 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts to Josiah and Abiah Franklin. (Isaacson 26). His father was a candle and soap maker. Tried as he might, this career did not interest him. Neither did the business of printing as he discovered while working as an apprentice for his older brother. Though Ben Franklin possessed at an early age the talent of persuasive writing via “anonymous letters” to the editor, young Ben Franklin was destined for much more. At the age of 17 years old, he decided he did not want to work in his brother's printing shop. He caught a sailing vessel to Pennsylvania. (Brands 54).
During the colonial era, gold and silver coins were the only sources of currency. Furthermore, they were minted in Britain. The colonies were chronically short of coins and they wished to mint their own currency (Levenson 26). There were attempts at printing paper currency by the different colonies, but these attempts were short-lived and unpopular. The biggest reason for this was the ease at which they could be counterfeited. While in Pennsylvania in 1739, Ben Franklin began printing fine currency. The problem with printed money was the ease of counterfeiting. To remedy this, Mr. Franklin enlisted the help of botanist and artist Jacob Breitnall. Mr. Breitnall had in the 30's created fine images of leaves using an old print maker's technique of rolling ink onto a leave then pressing that inked surface onto a sheet of paper (Levenson 26). Mr Franklin used this technique to create hard-to-copy paper currency. In 1736 Ben Franklin printed the first nature print of a rattlesnake leaf. The special nature print made counterfeiting extremely difficult leading to a new found confidence in paper currency. In 1775, the Continental Congress authorized creation of a national currency using the same methods discovered by Ben Franklin centuries earlier (Levenson 26). Eventually there were problems with the paper currency that the Continental Congress caused due to overprinting. However it does not take away from the contributions that Benjamin Franklin gave to us and the world in developing a unique style of printed money.
Then there is the famous invention that so many children know about Benjamin Franklin which is his work with lightening. Mr Franklin had experimented with and worked with various forms of static electricity (Isaacson 138). In 1751 he flew a kite in a thunderstorm. The kite had a metal point to which a long silk thread was attached. At the bottom of the thread was a metal key. As the thunderclouds showed signs of electrical charge, Franklin put his knuckle near the key and it sparked and crackled just like his prior Leyden jar experiment (Asimov 202). Finally in June of 1752 in Philadelphia, Mr. Franklin thought that the many traits of static electricity were similar with that of lightning (Morgan 12). He then devised a plan to place an iron rod from top of a tall building or steeple and ending it down at the base of the building near a charged glass tube. He did this so that any charge that gathered might leak away rapidly and silently and no charge would accumulate to the point where a disastrous discharge would be forced (Asimov 202)....
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Brands, H.W.. The first American: the life and times of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Doubleday, 2000 Print.
Fish, Bruce, and Becky Durost Fish. Benjamin Franklin: American Statesman, Scientist, & Writer Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000. Print.
Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: an American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.
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