Born in 1706 in Boston, Benjamin Franklin is revered as a founding father of the United States and the brains behind a medley of American inventions and organizations. He was a member of the Second Continental Congress, a drafter and signer of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution and commissioner to France during the American Revolutionary War.
A likeable fellow, Franklin was pivotal in recruiting French aid to the Americans during the war and later signed the Treaty of Paris ending the conflict with the British Empire.
Franklin's unique inventions range from bifocals, the lightening rod (although he didn't invent electricity), the iron furnace stove, or Franklin stove, and an odometer.
A young Ben Franklin helped launch the Library Company, America's first subscription library, in 1731, and organized Philadelphia's Union Fire Company, modeled after Boston's, in 1736. The Philadelphia Fire Department traces its roots to Franklin's company.
Perhaps Franklin's greatest and most enduring creation is America's first university, the University of Pennsylvania. His 1749 pamphlet, "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania," proposed a charter "with Power to erect an ACADEMY for the Education of Youth, to govern the same, provide Masters, make Rules, receive Donations, purchase Lands, &c. and to add to their Number, from Time to Time such other Persons as they shall judge suitable."
His proposals became the basis for the Academy, College and Charitable School of Philadelphia, the forbearer to Penn. Franklin, president of the Academy, College and Charitable School from 1749 to 1755, hired the University's first provost, William Smith, and served on the Board of Trustees from 1749 until his death in 1790. Twenty thousand people are said to have attended his funeral.
The links below offer more information about Franklin's remarkable life, achievements and contributions.
A documentary history of Penn's origins and its early years from 1740 to 1791
Penn's site celebrating the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth
An engaging and extensive resource featuring games, narratives, original writings, pictures, streaming video, and more
A chronicle of Franklin's life and accomplishments, compiled by the creators of the PBS special "Benjamin Franklin"
Meticulously researched biographical sketch by noted Franklin scholar J. A. Leo Lemay