Benjamin Franklin, born 300 years ago Tuesday, was one of America's Founding Fathers. But he was also a printer, author, musician, and scientist.
A thunderstorm is not the best weather for flying a kite. That is, of course, unless you're Benjamin Franklin.
One summer afternoon in 1752, Franklin and his son, William, did just that. As thunderclouds developed in the distance, the two ran to an open field to fly a kite.
You see, Franklin had a theory about electricity. He thought electricity and lightning might be the same thing. But he wasn't sure. So despite the possible danger, Franklin tested his theory on that stormy day with a special kite designed to attract lightning.
After all, that's what scientists do: They imagine the unthinkable, take risks, and try new things.
Benjamin Franklin might be best known as a politician and a printer. But he was also a scientist and an inventor. He was always tinkering with things. He was always experimenting.
When lightning struck his kite that day, sending sparks to a key in his hand, Franklin proved his theory. He now knew that lightning was an electrical phenomenon.
That discovery proved to be the beginning of other experiments and inventions.
Franklin invented lightning rods, which help keep houses and buildings safe from lightning; bifocal eyeglasses (with one part for close focus and another for distance); swim flippers, so people could swim faster in water; and a stove to efficiently heat small rooms.
Franklin was also one of the first people in the 13 Colonies to establish a lending library, a volunteer fire department, and a public hospital.
All of these innovations and improvements were the result of taking risks, challenging old ways of thinking, and looking for new ways to make everyday life easier. That's what Franklin did best.
But his true love was reading and writing. As a child, that often got him into trouble when he would skip church to read books and newspapers. But as he got older, it paved the way for his success in publishing and politics.
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