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"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Colonial Inventions of Benjamin Franklin

by Roseanna M. White

One thing I love about the Colonial and early Federal days is how wide open the world was for discovery. So many gentlemen of our nation's early years--if they had leisure enough--dabbled in invention. And none was so famous for it as Benjamin Franklin.

An inspiration for generations of inventors to come, Franklin never tried to profit from his inventions--he wanted to improve daily life for the common man. And so he brought us a few key inventions...and gets credit for a few he didn't actually make (like daylight savings time. He didn't invent that--he merely made an observation that if people went to bed an hour earlier and rose an hour earlier, it would be like extending their day by an hour). ;-)

Bifocals

As so many of us encounter as we age, Ben had an issue with his sight. But the glasses he needed for reading didn't help for distance, and vice versa. So he decided that, rather than switch one pair for another, he would put both lenses into a single frame, creating the first bifocal.

The Franklin Stove

One of the most practical and life-changing of Franklin's inventions is the stove named after him. Up until then, fireplaces were a home's sole means of heat. The stove Franklin created could instead stand in the middle of a room, radiating heat in all directions. It used less wood to create more heat, got better airflow, and didn't create the smoke of a fireplace.

Lightning Rod

What school child doesn't know the story of good ol' Ben, flying the kite with a key attached? Of course, we can't say he invented electricity--he also didn't exactly discover it. But what he did do was verify that lightning is indeed electricity, and come to understand what kind it is. As he experimented with electricity, Franklin had to coin words to go along with his discoveries. You might recognize a few:

  • battery
  • charge
  • condensor
  • conductor
  • plus
  • minus
  • positively
  • negatively
  • armature
His new understanding led him to another very practical invention. The lightning rod was a simple mechanism--a metal pole reaching above a house, with a direct line into the ground. If lightning were to strike, it would be channeled harmlessly down to the earth, rather than damaging and destroying the house. This one saved a lot of lives and property!

But what I found very intriguing to learn was that, in his own house, it didn't stop there. He had his own lightning rod connected to devices within his home that would whirl and spin and play music. So thunder storms were quite an event in the Franklin abode!

Chart of the Gulf Stream

During his many voyages across the Atlantic, Franklin also noticed that it was quicker to travel eastward than westward. As he wondered why, he took notes on the currents and created the first ever map of the Gulf Stream.

These aren't all of Franklin's contributions--and certainly not all the inventions of the era. But it's a fair sampling of his dedication to discovery and to making life a little more understandable--and bearable--for the rest of mankind.

~*~

Roseanna M. White pens her novels under the Betsy Ross flag hanging above her desk, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When she isn’t homeschooling her small kids and writing fiction, she’s editing it for WhiteFire Publishing or reviewing it for the Christian Review of Books, both of which she co-founded with her husband.

14 comments:

  1. Neat article
    God bless you today
    Chris G

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  2. Very interesting.
    Thanks for sharing Roseanna.
    Blessings, Tina

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  3. What an amazing mind he had! Thanks, Ro!

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    1. Yep, when I can't think of another topic to post on, I resort to something Ben did. ;-)

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  4. Love the image of a thunderstorm at the Franklin's! :o) Great post!

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    1. Isn't that fun? Most of these things I found through internet searches, but that one came from a book I was reading a few months ago for research. =)

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  5. Thank you for an informative and thought-provoking post. I guess thunderstorms can be fun.

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  6. He had the ultimate what-if mind set. We writers could take a cue from him. :)

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  7. This was a great article. I love history and it is so nice to come across posts like this.
    thank you

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