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Franklin Benjamin

Franklin, Benjamin, the great American natural philosopher and diplomatist (1706-1790), was born at Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest son of a large family. He was taken from school at the age of twelve to learn printing with his brother, James; and when the latter was imprisoned for libel, carried on his journal for him. Longing for independence, Benjamin, at the end of five years, left Boston, and sailed to New York; but ultimately went to Philadelphia, where he was employed" by a printer. To gain further experience, he was persuaded to go to England in 1724, and was eighteen months in a London house. On his return he set up a printing business for himself, and a few years later began to conduct a newspaper. In 1732 he began to publish Poor Richard's Almanac, and five years later was made postmaster of Philadelphia. Soon after this he was elected to the Pennsylvanian Assembly, and became Deputy Postmaster-General for the colonies. In 1746 began the period of scientific research. He proved experimentally the identity of electricity with lightning, suggested lightning-conductors as a protection for buildings, and made other discoveries in physics, which gained him election to the Royal Society of London. He also laid the foundations of meteorology by his description of the course of storms over North America; pointed out the use which could be made of the thermometer in navigation; and in. optics showed in what manner different colours absorbed solar heat. In 1757 he went to England as agent for Pennsylvania, and was there for five years. In 1764 he came over to represent the opposition of the colonies to the Stamp Act, and after a fruitless mission returned to America in. 1775. He was immediately elected a delegate to Congress, and took an active part in its deliberations. He was now sent to Paris in order to obtain. the help of France for the resisting colonists, and in 1778 saw his efforts crowned with success. He did not return to America till 1785, some two years after he had signed the treaty by which the independence of the United States was recognised.. After having been thrice President of his own State and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of the United Colonies, he retired from public life in 1788. Franklin's autobiography and writings have been edited by John Bigelow, who has also written a life of him. W. T. Franklin, his grandson, Jared Sparks, and James Parton are also among his biographers.