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A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor,...
A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He facilitated many civic organizations, including a fire department and a university.
Franklin earned the title of "The First American" for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity; as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies, then as the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, "In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat." To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."
Franklin, always proud of his working class roots, became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies. He was also partners with William Goddard and Joseph Galloway the three of whom published the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of the British monarchy in the American colonies. He became wealthy publishing Poor Richard's Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette.
Franklin gained international renown as a scientist for his famous experiments in electricity and for his many inventions, especially the lightning rod. He played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a national hero in America when he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts to secure support for the American revolution by shipments of crucial supply to the British Colony through associations with Marquis de Lafayette and other prominent French aristocrats of the time have made him a prominent figure, also as a strategist.
Carl Schurz as a student, he participated in the 1848 uprisings in Germany. His efforts obligated him to emigrate when the revolution failed, and in 1852 he settled in the United States. He was a confidante of Lincoln, U.S. Ambassador to Spain, a major-general in the Civil War, a U.S. Senator from Missouri, Secretary of the Interior in the Hayes administration, author of a biography of Henry Clay, president of the National Civil Service Reform League, and an editorial writer for Harper's Weekly. He gave many speeches and lectures and wrote prolificly. He promoted civil service reform, environmental preservation and arbitration for the settlement of international disputes. He opposed slavery, inflationary monetary strategies and U.S. imperialism.