Benjamin Franklin Is Born

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, Massachusetts, but his adopted home was Philadelphia, the largest city in eighteenth-century America.

His many accomplishments as printer, scientist, and statesman are particularly remarkable when considered in the context of colonial North America. A spirit of pragmatic innovation imbued all of Franklin's intellectual, social, and scientific pursuits. He dedicated himself to the improvement of everyday life for the widest number of people and, in so doing, made an indelible mark on the emerging nation.

Although Franklin had little formal education, he was an avid reader and writer. The fifteenth of seventeen children, at age twelve he was apprenticed to his older brother James, a printer who published a weekly newspaper called The New England Courant. At seventeen Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, where on the day of his arrival he met his future wife, Deborah Read. He quickly found employment and was able to set up his own print shop by 1728. Soon Franklin was publishing almanacs and newspapers of his own, as well as taking in "job printing" for others. In 1737 he became the postmaster of Philadelphia, a role that aided him in gathering the news.

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He formed both the first public lending library in America and first fire department in Pennsylvania. He was an early proponent of colonial unity, and as a political writer and activist he supported the idea of an American nation. As a diplomat during the American Revolution he secured the French alliance that helped to make independence of the United States possible.

Franklin is credited as being foundational to the roots of American values and character, a marriage of the practical and democratic Puritan values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of Henry Steele Commager, "In Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat." To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin, "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."