Famous Inventors: Benjamin Franklin

It is hard to overstate the popularity of Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century world. Today in the minds of many Benjamin Franklin is remembered as one of the Founding Fathers, and revered for his contributions to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitutional Convention and his role in finally convincing the French to join America’s fight for Independence. While all of these accomplishments are certainly noteworthy and would be the defining achievement in the career of most, it is the science and invention of Benjamin Franklin that propelled him to fame and fortune. The list of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions (see below) reveal a man of many talents and interests. It was his love of science and the pursuit of knowledge, however, that brought out the inventor in Franklin. His natural curiosity about things and the way they work made him try to find ways to make them work better.

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Benjamin Franklin’s Science & Invention 


Invents a pair of swim fins for his hands.


Franklin started the first circulating library in the colonies, which today might be patentable as a business method.

  c. 1740

Franklin had nothing to do with the potbellied stove known by his name today. Rather, his invention was a complicated—and ultimately unsuccessful—device intended to force heat into a room while carrying smoke away.


The first known writings of Franklin’s electrical experimentation.


Franklin retired from printing, in order to devote himself fully to science.


Experiments and Observations on Electricity is published in London.


In 1752, Benjamin Franklin conducted his famous kite flying experiments and proved that lightning is electricity. This experimentation lead to the invention of the lightening rod, an enormously important invention at the time.


While Postmaster General Franklin invented a simple odometer to help measure the mileage of postal routes.


To help his ailing brother Franklin invented a urinary catheter, which improved upon a previously known catheter.

  c. 1761

Franklin invents a glass armonica, and has been quoted as saying: “Of all my inventions, the glass armonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction.”

  c. 1784

Franklin invents bifocals.

  c. 1785

Invents an instrument for taking down books from a shelf.


Additional Resources

The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments is divided by scientific field, all of the activities included are either actual experiments tried by Franklin himself or inspired variations on his research. One particularly well-presented section, “Using Your Head,” stresses the importance of observation and inquiry in research. Many of the ideas in this book are bound to lure even reluctant students into action. Easily constructed musical instruments, magic tricks, weather stations, and printing presses can be assembled with minimal materials and effort. Informative black-and-white ink drawings and diagrams appear throughout.

Benjamin Franklin – PBS Home Video – DVD VHS – “Benjamin Franklin” traces Franklin’s epic life from humble beginnings to fame as a scientist, founding father and America’s first diplomat to France. Tony Award-winner Richard Easton and a cast of distinguished actors bring Franklin’s 18th-century world vividly to life. Surprising, moving and full of Franklin’s own
wit and wisdom, “Benjamin Franklin is the exuberant portrait of a true American original.”

Benjamin Franklin : An American Life – Benjamin Franklin, writes journalist and biographer Walter Isaacson, was that rare Founding Father who would sooner wink at a passer-by than sit still for a formal portrait. What’s more, Isaacson relates in this fluent and entertaining biography, the revolutionary leader represents a political tradition that has been all but forgotten today, one that prizes pragmatism over moralism, religious tolerance over fundamentalist rigidity, and social mobility over class privilege.

BenjaminFranklin (About.com) – This site has a tremendous amount of information, perhaps the best source I found, albeit not as easy to navigate as one would like. To get more information read to the bottom and click on the link at the end of the text.

Benjamin Franklin (PBS.org) – He was one of the most extraordinary human beings the world has ever known. Born into the family of a Boston candle maker, Benjamin Franklin became the most famous American of his time. He helped found a new nation and defined the American character. Writer, inventor, diplomat, businessman, musician, scientist, humorist, civic leader, international celebrity . . . genius. Explore the life of a remarkable man.

strong>Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man (The Franklin Institute) – He became famous for being a scientist, an inventor, a statesman, a printer, a philosopher, a musician, and an economist. Today, we honor Ben Franklin as one of our Founding Fathers and as one of America’s greatest citizens.

Quotations of Benjamin Franklin (Thinkquest.org) – Benjamin Franklin’s keen mind and eloquent tongue made him a truly inspirational speaker. Many of his quotations and maxims convey important truths relevant to modern society.


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Join the Discussion

2 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for David]
    August 20, 2012 06:38 pm

    Ben Franklin also filed no patents and was not motivated by the lucre of IP rents extracted from his community.

  • [Avatar for Ed Hird]
    Ed Hird
    October 31, 2009 12:28 am

    Benjamin Franklin had a remarkable impact in so many ways, including his amazing inventions. A Benjamin Franklin article just received the ‘Top 100 Electricity Blogs’ Award http://bit.ly/z8Ckp