Ben Franklin is an amazing human being. He was not afraid to be an amateur in a particular field. As an amateur with a fresh pair of eyes he was able to create many breakthroughs in multiple fields that have shaped civilization. And he was a bit of a prankster and showman. Being able to accomplish very big objectives while not taking yourself so seriously is something I inspire to be.
Jump To Section:
Born from humble beginnings and one of 17 siblings, Ben Franklin became a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. He was a man who worked for the common good of mankind, and did not succumb to fame. Because even after acheiving fame as a scientist and statesman, he habitually signed his letters with the unpretentious “B. Franklin, Printer.” He was a self-made man and was not afraid to stand on his own two feet. To show, Franklin was, along with his contemporary Leonhard Euler, the only major scientist who supported Christiaan Huygens’ wave theory of light, which was basically ignored by the rest of the scientific community. He was a man of his own making, own thoughts, and actions.
- lightning rod
- Franklin stove
- facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and a university
- He charted and mapped the gulf stream
- In 1748 he constructed the first ever electrical battery by placing eleven panes of glass coated with lead hung from silk cords and connected by wires.
Franklin never patented his inventions; in his autobiography he wrote, “… as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.
“A penny saved is twopence dear” (often misquoted as “A penny saved is a penny earned”) and “Fish and visitors stink in three days”
Franklin sought to cultivate his character by a plan of 13 virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in some form for the rest of his life. His autobiography lists his 13 virtues as:
- Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself” avoid trifling conversation.
- Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry – Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
- Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Franklin did not try to work on them all at once. Instead, he would work on one and only one each week leaving all others to their ordinary chance.
While Franklin did not live completely by his virtues, and by his own admission he fell short of them many times, he believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness, which is why in his autobiography, he devoted more pages to this plan than to any other single point; in his autobiography Franklin wrote,
I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.