Why Did Benjamin Franklin Write An Essay About Farting? And Why His Idea Might Come True

Benjamin Franklin with 'Fart Proudly' pamphlet.

Benjamin Franklin is best known to his contributions to the founding of the United States of America and innovations like the bifocals and the Franklin stove. But few know about the essay Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1781 about a peculiar issue: farting.

According to Vox, Franklin wrote a thorough and scientifically-motivated argument to the Royal Academy of Brussels, which he titled “To the Royal Academy of Farting,” or “Fart Proudly.” While some people are aware of Benjamin Franklin’s flatulence essay, very few people know why he wrote it. Like with all things Franklin attempted, “Fart Proudly” had a utilitarian goal that Franklin wanted to accomplish. Benjamin Franklin wanted the Royal Academy to invent a medicine that would make farts smell better.

“It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind… That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.”

Franklin then goes on to make the case that the nation’s best scientists should be focusing their intellect and energy on developing a drug that could safely and reliably improve the stench of farts–and not just remove the bad smell, but actually make them smell good, according to Teaching American History.

“My Prize Question therefore should be, To discover some Drug wholesome & not disagreable, to be mix’d with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes.”

Franklin even goes so far as to say that an accomplishment of this magnitude would be one of the biggest discoveries in the history of science.

While science and nutrition does have a lot to say about reducing the odor of farts by cutting out foods with hydrogen sulfide (beans, broccoli, dairy products, cauliflower, onions, eggs), there hasn’t yet been a magical Franklin drug that makes your farts smell like perfume. However, there is a promising new product in France that could make farts smell like chocolate. According to Christian Poincheval, the drugs alter the scent of farts through natural food products. To get the chocolate scent, Poincheval’s pill includes cacao zest, bilberry, plant resin, vegetable coal, and seaweed. If only Benjamin Franklin were here to see this.

Would you take a pill to improve the smell of your farts? Or do you think Benjamin Franklin’s biggest idea is ridiculous?

For more on Benjamin Franklin, read about the teacher who got suspended simply for posting a quote by Franklin in his classroom.