“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are
dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing,”
wrote Benjamin Franklin. He certainly did both, becoming the most
accomplished American of his age and the most influential person
in creating the type of society America would become.
During his 84-year life, Franklin rose from runaway
apprentice to become America’s best writer, inventor, media baron,
scientist, diplomat, business strategist and favorite Founding Father.
Dean Morrissey’s portrait of Franklin depicts the
great statesman with a few of his well known inventions and inquiries.
Behind him is his Glass Armonica, a musical instrument comprised
of thirty-seven glass bowls mounted horizontally on an iron spindle.
The whole spindle turned by means of a foot pedal. The sound was
produced by touching the rims of the bowls with water moistened
fingers. Each rim was painted different color according to the pitch
of the note.
He is working on is his map of the Gulf Stream, which
he was the first to chart and name. He noticed that mail packets
sailing from England would often take weeks more to make the same
trip as a merchant vessel. After consulting with experienced ship
captains he created his chart so eastbound ships could avoid sailing
against the three miles per hour current.
The key is from his experiment to prove that lightning
was, indeed, electricity. In a letter describing the 1750 experiment
he noted, “When rain has wet the kite twine so that it can conduct
the electric fire freely, you will find it streams out plentifully
from the key at the approach of your knuckle.” He was also proposed
that what was then known as “vitreous” and "resinous" electricity
were not different types of "electrical fluid” (as electricity was
called then), but the same electrical fluid under different pressures.
He was the first to label these as “positive” and “negative” flows.
He is known as the father of the bifocal, because
of a famous drawing he made of his glasses in 1784, but there is
much evidence that he had created them long before that. As early
as 1775 the Philadelphia optician who made his glasses references
bifocals in his writings and a 1779 letter and bill from his optician
in Paris, France apologizes for the delay in delivering his order
because he broke numerous lenses while cutting, not grinding, the
Dean Morrissey’s "Ben Franklin: Patriot and Renaissance
Man" celebrates the intelligence and natural curiosity that drove
Franklin’s search to continually discover ways to make things work
better. It was only natural that when such a great and energetic
mind focused on the problem of colonial exploitation such great
things would come to pass.