It could be said that Benjamin Franklin was truly the enlightened American of his
time. He was a pioneer in the study of electricity and is world-renowned for his ideas and
inventions. Today, after two hundred years, his name is still remembered by millions, and
his influence is still felt world-wide. A man as great as this deserves some sort of
remembrance for all that he accomplished. Recently there has been talk of adding a fifth
visage to Mount Rushmore, someone who is in keeping with the four great men currently
displayed. Benjamin Franklin's achievements as an inventor, discoverer, and statesman
well deserve him a place on this great monument.
During his lifetime, Benjamin Franklin gave us a multitude of inventions, many of
which are still used in some form today. "Necessity is the mother of invention," said
Franklin. In fact, it was necessity which prompted a very well known invention. Franklin
was unfortunate enough to be both near- and far-sighted. Frustrated by having to
constantly change between two pairs of glasses, he created bifocals where he cut the lenses
from both spectacles in half and put them together in one frame. Another invention of his
still in use today is the odometer. Although modified somewhat for use today, Franklin
used the device on his carriage to map out routes in the town. Basically, his odometer
measured how many times the wheel of his carriage made a full circle. Franklin's other
inventions were many and far ranging including such devices as the catheter to the Franklin
stove to the lightening rod.
Along with his may inventions, Benjamin Franklin is well remembered for many of
his ideas and discoveries. Foremost on this list is probably electricity. Before his lifetime,
scientists in Europe dabbled with various tests and assessments of such things as friction,
attraction, and repulsion, but it was only mere dabbling until Benjamin Franklin. Franklin
saw that lightening and electricity are essentially the same force, and he realized the
awesome power both contained. Most have heard about Franklin's experiments with
Page 2
lightening through the story of the kite and the key in the lightening storm, but few people
realized that he had many other great ideas still in used today. Franklin came up with
daylight savings time so there would be more hours of light during the summer so more
productive work could be done. He started the first fire department and sixteen years later
began the first fire insurance company. He was the first to chart the Gulf Stream, he is
credited with the first political cartoon called "Join or Die," he was the first to advocate
Vitamin C, and much more!
Franklin was also a well-known statesman. He proposed a truly visionary plan at a
meeting of representatives in Albany, NY called the Albany Plan of Union. This plan
proposed to unify the colonial governments and form an alliance with the Iroquois Indians,
one of the few tribes not allied with the ever-attacking French. The plan also gave the
government authority over defense, westward expansion, and Indian relations. The plan
went unheeded, but became a reminder of the enormous potential of a unified government.
Franklin sought a resolution to the Native American problem peacefully but to no avail.
He later advised the British military commanded by General Braddock in their attempts to
cease Native American attacks in the colonies. When the military regiments failed because
General Braddock didn't head Franklin's warnings that the Indians would resort to guerrilla
warfare, Franklin, with the help of his son William, was put in command of the defense of
the north western frontier. His command, however, would be short-lived. He would soon
be called away to London as a representative of Pennsylvania.
Whether he was being an inventor, a thinker, or a statesman, Benjamin Franklin
was a leader among men. "There never was a good war nor a bad peace," he once said.
Franklin was a visionary, and he deserves to be honored with his face carved into the stone
of the legendary Mount Rushmore.