Franklin’s scientific endeavors increased after retirement. He made a crude electric battery, which he hoped could be used to cook food. Observing the
ocean currents, he discovered that the Gulf Stream, which was warmer than the rest of the water around it, could be located by dipping a thermometer
into the ocean.
He conducted an experiment using different-colored cloth patches on the snow. To his surprise, darker colored patches sank deeper in the snow than
lighter ones. Consequently, Franklin discovered that darker colors absorb more heat than lighter colors.
While previous street lamps had burned out often, Franklin’s new square funnel design burned all night. He grew tired of the inconvenience of needing
one pair of glasses to see up close and another pair to see objects far away; his solution was to invent bifocals. Franklin, a violinist and song writer,
invented a new instrument called a glass harmonica, which became very popular and was used both in the colonies and in Europe. In order to reach
books on a shelf without the use of a ladder, Franklin invented an extended, artificial arm.
His most famous experiment, however, was that of flying a kite during a lightning storm. Although extremely dangerous, the experiment proved the
presence of electricity in lightning. Franklin saw a practical application for his discovery. He encouraged people to place a rod on their house so that
lightning would hit the rod instead of the home, thereby saving it from fire. More than any other experiment, this particular one gained Franklin world fame.
British scientists awarded him a medal, and, even though he had very little formal schooling, his accomplishments gained him the respect of many
important and educated people. A number of scientists called him Dr. Franklin, and intellectuals referred to him as the darling of the Enlightenment.
Besides improving life for others with his inventions, Franklin also sought to improve himself. He taught himself to read French, Spanish, Italian, and Latin.
He made up thirteen rules, which he followed religiously. He worked on putting one of the rules into practice for one week, and then he went on to the
next one. After he had completed all of them, he started over with the first one again. His rules included, Don’t eat or drink too much, Don’t waste
anything, and Don’t hurt anyone.
Franklin recognized his own brilliance and believed that it was his duty to continue to use his talents in order to improve the world around him in as many
ways as he could. For example, in 1737, he became postmaster in Philadelphia. His reforms in mail delivery were so successful that he was appointed
deputy postmaster general (1753 1774) for all of the colonies.
Also, in 1751, Franklin established an academy that later became the University of Pennsylvania. That same year, he was instrumental in building the
Pennsylvania Hospital, which was the first general hospital in the colonies.
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