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Happy 300th Birthday Benjamin Franklin 277

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the today-in-history dept.
Guinnessy writes "Benjamin Franklin was born on 17 January 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. Franklin was a man of diverse talents: publisher, inventor, ambassador, politician, wit with some human frailities says NPR. In Physics Today, Philip Krider presents Franklin's work on electricity and the development of the lightning rod, work whose fame helped Franklin obtain aid from the French against the British. In the same magazine, Joost Mertens considers Franklin's explorations of the calming effects of oil on water. Those investigations, it turns out, had a less than calming effect on Dutch scholars. Philadelphia is planning a series of events celebratng Franklin's life throughtout the year."
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Happy 300th Birthday Benjamin Franklin

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:00AM (#14490268)
    and kiss your $100 bills!

    -Sj53
  • by Jim in Buffalo (939861) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:01AM (#14490274)
    Without Benjamin Franklin's entreaties to the French for aid in the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Army would certainly have suffered defeat at the hands of the British. For a man to tirelessly crusade for his country like Franklin did at his age and in a time when travel was no simple matter is astounding. Anyone with a quarter of that man's patriotism, devotion, and tenacity could move mountains.
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:05AM (#14490320)
      Anyone with a quarter of that man's patriotism, devotion, and tenacity could move mountains.

      And the thought that in modern times he'd be locked up under the PATRIOT act is truly sad...
      • by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:12AM (#14490367)
        And the thought that in modern times he'd be locked up under the PATRIOT act is truly sad...

        Flamebait? No. It's the truth.

        He first agitated for, and then actively participated in, the armed overthrow of the government, using an army of unlawful combatants backed by a rouge state.

        Franklin, along with all the great founders of the United States of America, was undoubtedly guilty of high treason. Of course, as Shakespeare observed, if it prospers none dare call it treason; so Franklin's a hero. Certainly had things gone a little differently there would today be celebrations in the honour of the brave patriot Benedict Arnold.

        • Not to mention that he'd be diametrically opposed to everything the current Administration stands for. Between the PATRIOT Act ("those who would give up essential liberty..."), "Faith-based initiatives" and the Kansas school board, and the media industry's stranglehold on copyright and patent law, he must be spinning in his grave!
          • he must be spinning in his grave!

            Hmm, maybe we could hook up a turbine up to him and generate some electricity. That would be properly honoring Franklin's inventive spirit.

        • "unlawful combatants backed by a rouge state" I always thought those states were more red than rouge in the voting maps.....
        • by east coast (590680) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:09PM (#14490860)
          Flamebait? No. It's the truth.

          He first agitated for, and then actively participated in, the armed overthrow of the government, using an army of unlawful combatants backed by a rouge state.


          Oh, you mean that treason is part of the Patriot act and not the constitution?

          Let's not be foolish about this. Stop trying to pin this on the Patriot act, it's one of the oldest laws on the books. As for speaking out against the government, it happens everyday. I don't see people being locked away for it.

          What is sad here is that I'll probably get labled as troll when the truth is Franklin would agree with me even if he supported a current day revolution. Instead the parent post got modded as insightful for simply invoking the name of an unpopular law instead of being based on fact.
        • by eclectic4 (665330) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:45PM (#14491165)
          "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Ben

          My favorite quote of his, and quite fitting.
      • And the thought that in modern times he'd be locked up under the PATRIOT act is truly sad...

        Well, the government he was born under would've hanged him if they could. So being locked up in prison actually shows some progress.

        "Gentleman, we must all hang together, or we will surely all hang seperately." B. Franklin
    • by The-Bus (138060) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:14AM (#14490382)
      Thankfully, his legacy now lives on with today's youth; they are reminded of the man through music videos featuring performers waving green bank notes bearing his lithograph and referencing his name. Yes, indeed, it is all about the Benjamin.
    • A gross simplification, and speculation to boot. Washington's war by posts had been very successful. The seige of yorktown did end the war true, and the French Fleet blockade of Yorktown was important, but let's be clear here. The British would have withdrawn from the States back up into Canada. They had been shredded by the militia down south. They would have found themselves back where the war started, and the war was becoming desperatly unpopular in England. It is unlikely that the war would have continu
    • Without Benjamin Franklin's entreaties to the French

      Just to be clear, it was the French royalty that he dealt with... a royalty that had few fans amongst the general French population.
    • I'm a Briton you insensitive clod!
    • Anyone with a quarter of that man's patriotism...

      How can a man be a patriot if he leads the violent overthrow of the rightful government of his country? The government of the time was accepted by the great majority of people in the British Empire, and by trying to undo law and order in the colonies, Franklin spurned the values of his country. If Franklin was a patriot, then Weather Underground and the SLA were patriots.

  • Wish you were here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:02AM (#14490281)
    Ben Franklin, oh how we need people like him today.

    Some great quotes from Poor Richard's Almanack:

    • Drive thy Business, or it will drive thee.
      He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.
      Setting too good an example is a kind of slander seldom forgiven.
      Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools will learn in no other.
      Write with the learned, pronounce with the vulgar.
      Necessity never made a good bargain.
      Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
      Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.
      If your Riches are yours, why don't you take them with you to t'other World?
      A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
      God heals, and the doctor takes the fee.
      Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
      Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.
      If you'd know the value of money, go and borrow some.
      When befriended, remember it. When you befriend, forget it.
    • Fish and relatives both smell after three days.

      Which is why I never visit my family for too long.

    • Franklin would also be at home with the FOSS crowd, I think:

      "As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."

      Benajmin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
    • Franklin didn't take the aphorisms and advice presented in Poor Richard's all that seriously, really. He was printing the books to make money, and the little sayings got readership. There was lively competition among the rival Almanacs back then. He also wrote scurrilous stuff under pseudonyms in his newspapers, with the same sort of open-minded sense of fun. Very Jonathan Swift-ish.

      The result is that his stuff is fun, basically, instead of coming across as prating moralism from a stuffed shirt.

      The cont

    • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@y a h o o . c om> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:34AM (#14490523) Journal
      More great Franklin quotes (not all from Poor Richard's):

      Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
      Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
      A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
      A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave.
      A place for everything, everything in its place.
      A penny saved is a penny earned.
      At twenty years of age the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment.
      Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.
      Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
  • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:03AM (#14490294) Journal
    "Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."


    And certainly NEVER do it in front of a Web cam.
  • by nurhussein (864532) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:04AM (#14490299) Homepage
    After all I don't see the little Google doodle commemorating it, therefore it never happened.

    - A Message From The President Of Google Groupies
    • After all I don't see the little Google doodle commemorating it, therefore it never happened.

      Google makes a poor Towne Cryer, not to mention it is global in scope and I doubt that many people outside the United States would be interested in the tricentennary on Franklin's birth, though they should, given his contributions to science and diplomacy.

      • Yeah, but there are localized versions of Google. If they're outside of the United States they should be using their localized version (ie. google.co.uk, google.jp, etc.) which shouldn't show logos that commemorate US events/holidays.
      • I doubt people out of the US give a flying crap about Martin Luther King Jr. His contributions were pretty much limited to repeal of the Jim crowe laws, the civil rights act, and an affirmative action program to hire black bus drivers in Montgomery county. Only one of those has national scope. Another had county scope and yet another only affected those south of the Mason Dixon line.

        However, he made google's list.
    • Actually, it's not.

      In 1752 there was an adjustment of 11 (or maybe 12 days) when they standardized the calendar.

      Geo. Washington made a big deal of it and celebrated his birthday 11 days later, but then he was of a rigid military mind. Ben was more of a "Renaissance man" and wasn't nearly as anal.
  • Church and State (Score:2, Interesting)

    by samkass (174571)
    He was also one of the first vocal proponents of the separation of church and state. It's because of him that "We hold these truths to be self-evident" instead of the original text, which read "We hold these truths sacred."
    • Is there some evidence for this? To the best of my knowledge, it could have been changed by the committee, by Adams, by Franklin, or by Jefferson himself.
    • Re:Church and State (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mendenhall (32321) *
      There are MUCH older proponents of this separation. In the Augsburg Confession (penned by Melanchthon to reperesent the early views of the nascent Lutheran movement to the princes of Germany and the Roman Catholic Church), the following was stated (rather colorfully!):
      Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government . For civil go
  • I'll drink to that ! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by curtisk (191737) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:05AM (#14490321) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how many brilliant ideas came about after a relaxing romp at the ol' Hellfire Club [victorianweb.org]?
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:06AM (#14490324) Homepage Journal
    but not for The Burninator [homestarrunner.com]? The injustice!
  • Refused Patent (Score:3, Informative)

    by blamanj (253811) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:07AM (#14490329)
    Also of note for those who follow intellectual property issues, when he invented the "Franklin stove," he refused the offered patent [about.com] preferring that the design be available to anyone.
    • Also of note for those who follow intellectual property issues, when he invented the "Franklin stove," he refused the offered patent preferring that the design be available to anyone.

      Lest anyone suddenly get the idea that Ben Franklin was an early "information wants to be free" sort of guy, don't forget that the only way he was able, in his early forties, to "retire" from the daily grind and turn his attention towards science, diplomacy, and nation-building was because he made himself relatively wealthy
      • Yes, he made himself wealthy as a publisher -- by providing (and charging for) the service of making copies when the cost of doing so was not zero, as it is today. Do you know of any cases where he went after someone for reprinting something he published themselves? I don't, and that's what would be required to give evidence of him being an advocate of "Intellectual Property."

        In my opinion, what he did was more akin to selling communications hardware today -- he was facilitating exchange of ideas, not setti
        • "Yes, he made himself wealthy as a publisher -- by providing (and charging for) the service of making copies when the cost of doing so was not zero, as it is today."

          Um, you can't get wealthy by providing services at cost, so he WAS charging more than the cost of making copies. More than he needed to in order to live just like everyone else. Enough more that be became VERY wealthy.

          (I don't think that this was a bad thing, but it seems to me to demonstrate that the cost of making the copies isn't part of th
          • Right, but I what I was saying was that if the cost of something is not zero, then you can charge for it (and make a percentage profit). On the other hand, if the cost of something is zero, no rational person would pay for it.

            Benjamin Franklin made his money by providing the service of making copies, not by holding the monopoly to creative works -- if he cared about making money that way, he would have patented his inventions. He would also have gone after any cases of copyright infringment. Now, I've ne
            • Besides, Franklin was only into publishing because it was lucrative at the time (and gave him an easy way to get his ideas out).

              He started setting up other publising houses, and taking percentages of those shops' revenue expressly to make money, not to "get his ideas out." His own writings (not his essential political stuff, later in life) included what he thought would sell. He wasn't getting paid to copy his own work, he was creating work so that he could sell it. He wrote sonnets, produced his famousl
    • Re:Refused Patent (Score:3, Informative)

      by Roblimo (357)
      This is correct. Franklin refused patents on *all* of his many inventions so that they would be available to everyone -- and so that others might improve upon them.

      - Robin

      • Re:Refused Patent (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rbrewer123 (884758)
        I agree with this according to the research I've done. The counterpoint to this is that having become well-to-do in the publishing business, he could afford to give his inventions away for free.
    • While I respectfully disagree with RMS a great deal politically, he's got a great point about
      intellectual property
      being a legal WTF.
      Please review http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.xhtml [gnu.org]
  • Saw this in a few press-releases, and it seems to work pretty well.

    http://ben.clusty.com/ [clusty.com]

    Has a neat timeline of his accomplishments and has resources for teachers and students.
  • Such a great guy! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:11AM (#14490356)
    A scientist, an advocate of separation of church and state, an opponent of "intellectual property" (he never patented any of his inventions), and a true patriot to boot!

    (I still can't believe he didn't win that "greatest American" contest the History Channel ran a while back...)
    • *correction: Discovery Channel, not History Channel. Whoops.
    • I still can't believe he didn't win that "greatest American" contest the History Channel ran a while back...

      Perhaps because he disowned his only son and all but abandoned his wife prefering to flirt with French noblewomen?

      Franklin certainly had many personal flaws, for all his greatness. I always felt John Adams was a overlooked man of greatness. He also had the personal integrity to back up his public statements (unlike Jefferson and Franklin).
      • My understanding was that he tended to get plenty ripped when the time came as well. Americans tend to prefer their heroes have flaws, they can identify with them more easily. We're so competitive, we see a hero with no visible flaws and dislike not being able to measure up in some way.
  • Coffin size? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:12AM (#14490372)
    Happy birthday, but... I just hope the coffin is large enough to let him comfortably spin in it, as I'm sure that's what he does if he has any idea of what's going on in the US government now.
  • Happened to pick up a copy of "The First American," [amazon.com] by H.W. Brands, a couple of years back. Excellent biography.

    The book spends its preface on Franklin's mid-career appearance for a sort of intellectual pillory in "the cockpit" in London. The sort of public roasting one got from the establishment powers there was accepted to be the dishing of a person's public career. For Franklin that supposed disaster was a turning point; he'd been desperately trying to get the London establishment to understand the poi

  • Interesting quote. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JaxWeb (715417) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:14AM (#14490377) Homepage Journal
    I think Benjamin Franklin was very good, and I am glad to see him remembered.

    Something I got from the website www.politicalcompass.org/:

    Q:
    Which founding father said of the proposed American Constitution This is likely to be administered for a course of years and then end in despotism ... when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other ?

    A:
    Benjamin Franklin in a speech to delegates to the US Constitutional Convention prior to the final vote.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      When a woman asked Franklin, "What king of government have you given us", after the Constitutional convention, he replied, "A Republic if you can keep it"
    • Full Quote (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From wikiquote [wikiquote.org]

      In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, -- if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapa

      • "...and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."

        sigh. We're almost there.

  • by SeanDuggan (732224) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:14AM (#14490380) Homepage Journal
    Franklin was also a bit the ladies man. For instance, his treatise on the advantages of older women vs younger women [rjgeib.com]. I particularly like his dismissal of the lesser attractiveness...
    5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part. The Face first grows lank and Wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower parts continuing to the last as plump as ever; so that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old one from a young one. And as in the Dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of Corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal and frequently superior; every Knack being by Practice capable by improvement.
    • What I find interesting is that unlike the younger person (who was definitely a philanderer and fathered a son out of wedlock), the older Ben Franklin never really engaged in sexual relationships with women. We know this from the letters he wrote during his time in France during the Revolutionary War.
      • Franklin was involved with a succession of aristocratic French ladies during the revolution. He was getting around.

        The letters back and forth with his various amours aren't explicit, but Ben was no prude, not by a mile, at any point in his life. (You're right that he was, er, active as a young man; he visited "houses of ill repute" in England.)

        For that matter he married in a relatively informal way -- Deborah Reid and he sort of moved in together and presented it as a marriage, and so it was accepted as

    • Franklin was also a bit the ladies man.

      Scientist, Geek, Statesman, Politician, Abolitionist and a Player too. Is there anything not to love about good ol' Ben Franklin? :)

    • Aw, he was just sayin' that because he was such a gentleman.

      And cleverly said, too -- "Why Elizabeth, you are every bit as attractive as a much younger woman, just as soon as I put this giant basket over the top half of your body and extinguish all the lights ..."

      timothy
  • I'm too lazy to do the research right now, but is this the birthday in the current Gregorian calendar or the (I think) then-used Julian calendar??? In which case, when is his birthday in the other calendar system? Oh, if you want to be globalist, you can include the Chinese birthdate if you want to.
  • This person was not afraid of being different. He refused to conform to the 'status quo'.

    He has the earmarks of a Radical Faerie [radfae.org].
  • More NPR Coverage (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:21AM (#14490427)
    From NPR's ScienceFriday.com:

    The podcast:
    http://www.sciencefriday.com/audio/scifriaudio.xml [sciencefriday.com]

    The MP3:
    http://libsyn.com/media/sciencefriday/scifri-20060 11325.mp3 [libsyn.com]

  • The more I read about this man and understand what a massive impact he had on the world, the more I believe this guy was either from outer space or a time traveler or something.

    He was so advanced and ahead of his time on so many aspects of our human experience that conluding that he was a mere mortal is difficult.

    Happy Birthday Ben!
  • I'm much more impressed with Dr. Franklin's invention of the jet ski. [rochester.edu] =)

    The guy was the MacGyver of his time. Imagine what he could've done with stuff like duct tape, gasoline or a Chevy small block 350.

  • The founding fathers are rising up from their graves?!
    Time to get my shotgun and LP's to kill zombie Franklin.
  • I've always wanted to write a book about cousin Ben. There are already a few books [amazon.com] out there already. Still I think it would be neat to write one myself. I've done enough research on the man over the years to jusitfy it. Everybody should have a famous relative. It makes research paper ideas so much easier to come up with. :-)
  • Be sure to get out there and try a "Poor Richard's" ale !

    A number of US brewpubs are serving [poorrichardsale.com] their own batches of Poor Richard's which was formulated to the researched preferences of Bejamin Franklin

    FWIW: its an "Open Recipe" [beertown.org] beer.

    (mmmmmm, beeer)

  • He waged verbal war via anonymous editorials in his and other papers enabling him to say things he most certainly wouldn't sign his name to. Something that sadly is no longer possible in the print media and may soon be outlawed on the internet as well.

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @11:58AM (#14490750) Homepage
    After all, he was a geek who got laid!
  • If it wasn't for the French, you guys would be speaking British!
  • Poor Richards Ale [beertown.org]

    Enjoy drinking a beer that is close to what Ben would have drunk.

  • by TonyXL (33244)
    When asked what form of government the founding fathers had agreed upon, Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it".

    Unfortunately, we have not, we have decended into a democracy, which Madison called, "the most vile form of government".

    Do yourself a favor: look into the difference.
  • by jocknerd (29758) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @02:43PM (#14492344)
    Along with Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Julius Caesar.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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