Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

American scientist, statesman and writer. Born on 17 January 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. Franklin started working life as a printer, moving to London in 1724. Two years later he returned to America, where he set up his own printing business, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanack.

In 1736 he became Clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly, and in 1737 Deputy Postmaster of Philadelphia. He founded the American Philosophical Society in 1743, and in 1749 he set up an academy that later became the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1748 he sold his business in order to concentrate on scientific research. Among his discoveries, Franklin demonstrated the existence of positive and negative electrical charges and proved that lightning is electrical. He also invented the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocal lenses and the first condenser.

In the public arena, Franklin served as a delegate to the Albany Cross in 1754, and was then sent to Britain in 1757 as diplomat for the Pennsylvania Assembly. He returned to America in 1775 with the onset of the American Revolution, where he became one of the country’s greatest statesmen, serving on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, which he signed.

In 1781 he became one of the American diplomats chosen to negotiate peace with Britain prior to the Treaty of Paris. He returned to America in 1785, retiring from public life in 1788. Franklin is remembered as one of the most multi-talented figures in American history – his image still appears on the $100 bill. He died in Philadelphia on 17 April 1790.