Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin!


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The Lightning Rod

When most of us think about Benjamin Franklin and his inventions, we think about a man running around outside during a thunderstorm with a kite. Ask any child and they will be quick to tell you that Benjamin Franklin invented electricity but the fact of the matter is, Franklin didn’t invent electricity, he simply figured out how the transfer of electricity works by inventing the lightening rod. During that time, in the 1700s, fires were commonplace as a result of lightning strikes. His simple lightning rod helped to channel that power away from the houses and buildings, and to a grounded source.


Were you aware that Ben Franklin also invented bifocals? As Franklin got older, he realized that his vision had started to decline. The inventor turned to science to find a solution for the uncomfortable task of switching between glasses for close-up reading and distance viewing. In 1784, Franklin discovered his solution with a pair of engineered eyeglasses he dubbed “double spectacles. Franklin had his optician take the lenses from his two sets of glasses, cut the lenses in two horizontally, and then mount them back into the frames. The optician placed the lens for close work at the bottom and the lens for distance at the top. Traditional eyeglasses simply correct vision for one distance, but the invention of the bifocal allowed for two corrective powers to be used in each lens, thus eliminating the need to switch between.


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Benjamin Franklin did not always work as an inventor. As a matter of fact, he once served as the postmaster general. In an effort to figure out the best route for delivering mail, he invented a simple odometer which allowed measurements between two areas when it was attached to the delivery carriage. Today, the odometers used in automobiles are much more complex.





The Gulf Stream


Did you know that Ben Franklin was the first scientist to study the Gulf stream? The Gulf stream is a powerful, warm current in theAtlantic Ocean. Those of us who live along the coast are familiar with what the Gulf stream is but very few of us realize the fact that Benjamin Franklin is one of the men that helped map it out. It was known that sailing from the United  States to Europe took less time than traveling in the other direction. This fact fascinated Benjamin Franklin so he took the time to map out the Gulf stream by measuring current depths and wind speed in order to come up with one of the first, accurate concept drawings of the phenomenon.


The Franklin Stove


The Franklin stove was a concept that was thought up by Benjamin Franklin in order to help individuals use less wood, while still producing more heat. Since wood fires accounted for a lot of the heat during that time, having a more efficient way of receiving that heat was welcomed by almost everyone. Something that is interesting about this particular invention is the fact that he turned down a patent for this concept. He wanted it to be available for everybody and was not interested in making a profit from it.


Today, young scientists are looking to the stories of Franklin’s experiments and his inventions and finding their own scientific inspiration. The Franklin Institute is a great resource for information on Benjamin Franklin. You can visit this website to find instructions for experiments with electricity, air, heat, and even the Glass Armonica. Find your own inspiratin and spark your imagination with even more experiments including how to build your own Leyden Jar!