Ben Franklin Was Born Nearly Three Centuries Ago Today, But Here Are Some Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Him

Happy Birthday, Ben Franklin. On this day in 1706, over three centuries ago, the inventor we mostly remember for flying a kite with a key in a rainstorm was still a newborn. By the time he died, Ben had invented and innovated so many things that today, he would look a lot like Batman’s research and development leader, Lucius Fox.

Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and spent his early years as a writer. His brother, James, had founded a weekly newspaper called the New England Courant, and young Ben had begun submitting his own essays under the pen name, Silence Dogood. This fictitious widow offered her views on everything from marriage and fashion, to women’s rights and religion. These essays grew so popular that the fictitious author began getting marriage proposals. After 14 of these essays, Ben Franklin unmasked himself as the author and angered his brother. Ben shortly left Boston and made his official home in Philadelphia.

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Ben had only two years of conventional education. The young prodigy loved to learn, even so much that he would occasionally starve himself just to buy more books. His self-education paid off later when he received honorary degrees at Yale and Harvard, among other top schools, and even founded the University of Pennsylvania.

The esteemed inventor had begun in Philadelphia almost penniless. It took him two decades to earn his considerable wealth, owning a print shop and publishing the popular Poor Richard’s Almanack. Having earned his wealth by the age of 42, he finally had time to start inventing some of the things we’ve come to know him for. The one which gave him the “greatest personal satisfaction” was a glass-based musical instrument, for which Mozart and Beethoven had written music, according to History.

Ben Franklin had initially been against the separation between New England and Great Britain. He had tried to help London come up with a compromise on peaceful terms, but his efforts were in vain. After the Boston Tea Party, he had even suggested that the East India Company should be compensated for their losses. His support of King George III had gained him a reputation as a potential British spy before he eventually gave in and became part of the revolution.

The one who helped Ben with his famous kite experiment was his son, William, a British loyalist. Mirroring Ben Franklin’s previous dislike for parting ways with the rule of Great Britain, William had refused to vacate his position as royal governor of New Jersey and opposed the revolution. William was nearly cut out of Franklin’s will with the words, “the part he acted against me in the late war … will account for my leaving him no more of an estate he endeavored to deprive me of.”

Ben Franklin had left a kind of savings plan for Boston and Philadelphia in the form of 2,000 pounds sterling. The catch was that part of it would be off limits for 100 years, and the second part likewise after that. By 1990, his leavings had accumulated to several million dollars.

The esteemed inventor’s accomplishments for the betterment of the world include the Franklin stove, which he claimed used less wood, produced less smoke, and generated more heat. He never patented the idea because he saw no point in it, says Constitution Daily.

Ben Franklin also invented four key words relating to electricity which became invaluable. The words positive, negative, battery, and charge were all his idea. However, he didn’t invent daylight saving time despite popular belief, according to the University of Delaware’s website.

Which of these facts were most intriguing to you about the inventor born this day nearly 300 years ago?

[Image via Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Virgin Mobile]