Tuesday, January 17, 2006
January 17, 2006 is the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin often called the "First American" or "America's da Vinci" due to his scientific discoveries and inventions.
Years ago I read "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" which is a very entertaining and historic book providing great insights on the founding period of the USA. Mr. Franklin was the shining example of the Renaissance Man given his interest in -- science, medicine, diplomacy, journalism, civil society, and government. Beyond the book let me also suggest you see the film, "National Treasure", starring Nicholas Cage in which Mr. Franklin is featured prominently.
Mr. Franklin's interests and accomplishments are being celebrated in several places around the world so please consider this website as a reference point -- http://www.franklin300.com -- however one key element from my perspective missing on this website is Mr. Franklin's greatest invention for civil society. Mr. Franklin created a "debate club, salon for mutual improvement" in 1727 with 12 of his Philadelphia friends known as the Junto -- http://www.juntosociety.com/index.html
What intrigues me the most about the Junto (pronounced "who-n-toe") was this forum's ability to develop worthy ideas designed to improve Philadelphia society such as a volunteer fire department or the subscription library concept. The Junto was essentially a grasstops think tank of community leaders who would develop ideas then go back to their stations in society to promote and bring the ideas into existence. One idea I have never seen attributed to Mr. Franklin was indoor plumbing/daily bathing which was clearly not a priority at times (perhaps he was too busy inventing or writing) given that his eventual wife, Deborah Read, is quoted as having said, "You stink", when they first met outside her father's home in 1723.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Franklin for not only his inventions, his international diplomacy successes with the French, and his elder statesman role at the Constitutional Convention but also for the inspiration he offers to future generations of Americans.
Happy Birthday Mr. Franklin,