The Incredible Ben

Ben is usually portrayed visually as a rotund, older man with glasses about to fall off his nose.  True enough, I guess.

However, my Ben was an athlete, a marathon swimmer, a gifted writer with a wicked sense of humor, an adventurer “going where no mBen_Franklin-02an had gone before”, a lover of entertaining and conversation, full of grit and determination, and a man of principle and courage.

Ben was a multi-tasker for sure:

  • As a Revolutionary: He convinced France to stand with us during the rebellion from England, and charmed poor Louis and Marie Antoinette into financing it.  It made the difference.
  • As a Founder of our Constitution: When the constitutional convention was deadlocked between the small states and the large populous states, he designed a bicameral legislature with one branch based on a state’s population, and another branch in which all states were represented equally. He was the elder statesman, the voice of compromise and reason among the younger firebrands, bringing practical solutions to the obstacles blocking the completion of the world’s most admired constitution.
  • As a Scientist and Inventor: The invention of the lightning rod made him the most famous scientist in the world and saved cities from the scourge of devastating fires, and, my favorite, so he could look at the French lady next to him and then admire the one across the banquet table as well, he created bifocals.  He was probably the most prolific inventor ever.
  • As an Entrepreneur and Community Activist, he started the first insurance company, first post office, first police/fire departments, first public library, the first publishing company, and more.
  • As a Writer and Publisher, he published one of America’s first newspapers as well as the first farmer’s almanac and, of course, Poor Richard’s Almanac of bestselling humor.

Ben lived to be 86 years old, something of an accomplishment in itself, and in his 80’s, on his last sea voyage returning from France,  he discovered and charted the Gulf Stream, a chart which today is almost identical to NASA satellite photos.

Ben was indeed an incredible person.

Read about Ben:

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (by Ben, of course)  First published after his death by by J.P. Lippincott & Co, in Philadelphia in 1868.   There are four parts: Part I in 1771,  Part II in 1784 ; Part Three in 1788 and Part Four in 1790 shortly before his death.  My edition is  Dover Thrift Edition, Dover Publications, 1996 and is unabridged.
  • Ben Franklin, An American Life by Walter Isaacson, published by Simon & Schuster Paperback in 2004.