Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole -Happy Birthday Ben - January 17th, 2006
Posted on 01/16/2006 9:01:50 PM PST by snippy_about_it
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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Born 300 years ago, [January 17th, 1706] Benjamin Franklin remains perhaps the most inquisitive, creative and prodigious inventor, innovator and thinker ever born on American soil. But which of Franklins many inventions was actually his most important? A scientist offers a somewhat surprising answer.
By Seymour Stanton Block
Benjamin Franklin was a genius, recognized as such at home and abroad in his own time and still today. George Washington referred to him as that great philosopher. Thomas Jefferson called him the greatest man of the age and country in which he lived. John Adams said of him: Franklin had a great genius, original, sagacious, and inventive, capable of discoveries in science no less than of improvements in the fine arts and the mechanical arts .His reputation was more universal than that of Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire. Much of Franklins reputation was a result of his phenomenal demonstration of capturing lightning from the sky and bringing it safely to the ground without harming people or property. Before this, according to Adams, grown men would hide under their beds in superstitious fear during storms of lightning and thunder. In ancient times, lightning was believed to be the javelins that the god Jove hurled at his enemies, and was referred to as Joves thunderbolts. In more modern times lightning was believed to be Gods method of punishing people for their sins. So Franklin was widely considered a great magician who, with his rod, had removed the danger from Joves thunderbolts. With Franklins demonstration, the world began to look upon natural phenomena in a different light, recognizing mans ability to understand and control them through science and invention.
The lightning rod was the most spectacular, but it was only one of Franklins many transformative inventions. Most inventions are improvements upon prior art, but there was nothing before Franklins rod to capture lightning. It was absolutely new and original, without precursors or forerunners. And what makes this Franklin invention even more monumental is that despite the great advances in technology, the lightning rod in use today is essentially the same as when Franklin invented it.
The lightning rod was the result of a flash of genius that came to Franklin after years experimenting with electricity. Another of his original creations, bifocal eyeglasses, was very simple and came to him without any previous experimentation. One contemporary claimed Franklin invented them so he could watch the girls across the room while still keeping his eyes on the one next to him. His own explanation was less salacious. When traveling, he said, he had to carry two pairs of spectacles, which he shifted when he wanted to read or when he wanted to take in the view of the countryside. Finding this change troublesome, he said, I had the glasses cut, and half of each kind associated in the same circle .
By this means, as I wear my spectacles constantly, I have only to move my eyes up or down, as I want to see distinctly far or near, the proper glasses being always ready. This I find more particularly convenient since my being in France, the glasses that serve the best at table to see what I eat, not being the best to see the faces of those on the other side of the table who speak to me. And when ones ears are not well accustomed to the sounds of a language, a sight of the movements in the features of him that speaks, helps .So I understand French better by the help of my spectacles.
A third original invention of Franklins is daylight saving time, which gives extra hours of daylight to enjoy in the evening. A stickler for economy, Franklins dictum early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise urged his fellow countrymen to work during daylight and sleep after dark, saving money on candles. He calculated that if all the families of Paris who caroused until late at night and then slept until noon would arise with the sun six hours earlier, 64 million pounds of candle wax would be saved in six months time. With tongue in cheek, he proposed to ring church bells at sunrise, and if that was not enough, let canon [sic] be fired in every street to wake the sluggards. Congress has never gone to that extreme, but over the decades -- the recent spike in energy costs providing the latest example -- it has heeded Franklins intent and extended the number of days covered by daylight saving time.
From utilitarian ideas to the world of art, Franklin was a force. Mozart and Beethoven wrote music for an instrument invented by Franklin, the glass armonica. The idea for the glass armonica was not something he had dreamed up out of the blue. Franklin loved music, enjoyed singing and played the harp, guitar and violin. During his stay in London, he heard a concert played on musical glasses and was delighted by the sound they made. The performer had a number of glasses on the table; each glass held a different amount of water that produced a different tone when he rubbed his wet finger over the rim. Franklin was charmed by the sweetness of its tones and the music produced. However, he thought the process was inefficient. The players finger had to run all around the rim of each glass and then had to jump to other glasses to play a melody. Furthermore, the glasses had to be filled precisely and tuned before each performance.
Taking up the challenge, Franklin experimented until he had produced a new instrument that he called the armonica, from the Italian word for harmony (not to be confused with the harmonica or mouth organ, which was invented some 50 years later). Instead of using drinking glasses on a table, Franklins armonica employed 37 glass bowls of varying sizes from 3 to 9 inches in diameter, sufficient for three octaves with all the semitones. Each bowl had a hole in the middle and was mounted close to its neighbor on an iron spindle. The spindle was laid horizontally in a wooden case and was rotated with the bowls by means of a foot treadle, like that in an old sewing machine. There was a narrow trough filled with water along the front of the case to enable the player to wet his finger. With the bowls revolving, the player could rub any bowl easily and rapidly -- since it was not necessary to move his finger around the rim -- and the fingers of both hands could be applied at the same time to give more complex sounds. Franklin had ground each bowl to give the desired tone, so that once tuned it would be unnecessary to have to tune it again.
Its tones are incomparably sweet beyond any other; and they may be swelled and softened at pleasure by stronger or weaker pressure of the finger, boasted Franklin. Apparently the public agreed. In Germany and Austria, Franklins fame for the armonica rivaled the reputation he had achieved for his electrical experiments and lightning rod. Marianne Davies, an accomplished musician, gave public performances on the armonica in England, Italy and Austria. At a recital for the imperial court in Vienna, Princess Marie Antoinette, soon-to-be queen of France, was so enthused she had Davies teach her to play it. The armonica was manufactured in London and sold across Europe. In America George Washington and Thomas Jefferson heard it played at a concert in Williamsburg, Va., and commented on how pleasing it was. Franklin enjoyed playing it while in France when he visited his beautiful friend, Madame Brillon, an accomplished musician and composer, who would accompany him on the pianoforte. Its ethereal, haunting notes with a touch of melancholy made it a favorite at weddings. One author wrote, The ear of a mortal can perceive in its plaintive tones the echoes of a divine harmony.
Play a tune on Ben's glass armonica.
Watch Ben play
In a philanthropic gesture, Franklin never patented any of his inventions, saying, I never made, nor proposed to make, the least profit by any of them. It was a matter of principle with him that, as he had benefited from past inventions and discoveries, present and future generations should be able to benefit freely from his inventions. Among his other inventions were an improved printing press, a flexible catheter, an extension arm for grasping items beyond ones reach, his famous stove and room heater, a modified odometer, a three-wheel clock that displayed seconds, minutes and hours, an improved oil lamp, flippers to aid swimming and even a sea anchor.
Among all of Franklins creations, what was his greatest? His earthshaking lightning rod, which not only saved property and lives but changed peoples way of thinking? Could it have been his stove that gave rise to modern systems of heating and ventilation? Or perhaps it was daylight saving time or the ubiquitous bifocal eyeglasses?
In fact, it can be argued that Franklins greatest invention of all was the United States of America. Of course Franklin did not create this invention alone, but he started it, he pursued it and he saw it through to completion. While the states existed then as British colonies, what wasnt there was the concept of union, the glue necessary to bind those colonies into a nation. When Franklin began his work on this great experiment in 1751, some 25 years prior to the Declaration of Independence, the colonies were anything but united, and they had little interest in becoming so.
In those decades before the American Revolution, France was the enemy, occupying Canada and the Mississippi and Ohio territories, eager to displace all the British colonies along the Atlantic Ocean. Between the territory controlled by the British and the French were the Indians, and both sides tried to persuade them to become allies. Franklin was well acquainted with the Indians, and in 1751 he wrote:
I am of the opinion that securing the friendship of the Indians is of the greatest consequence to these colonies .And to unite the several governments so as to form a strength that the Indians may depend on for protection in case of a rupture with the French .Such an union is certainly necessary to us all.
In the same year, New Yorks colonial governor George Clinton invited representatives of the neighboring colonies to an Indian conference at Albany, but nothing came of it as there was no war, and the colonies had other matters to attend to. By 1753 the French were instigating raids on the pro-English Indians, and the invitation was renewed, but again to no avail. In response to the French assaults, Virginia sent young Major George Washington with two companies of militia to dislodge the French military from the Ohio territory. He was soundly defeated and had to surrender. Virginia had requested military assistance from Pennsylvania, but the Pennsylvania Legislature, jealous of Virginia and controlled by pacifist Quakers, refused. The hostilities between the French and English in America ushered in the French and Indian War, which was to last off and on from 1754 to 1763, and came to be part of the European struggle between England and France known as the Seven Years War.
Reporting on the defeat of Washington in his newspaper, Franklin commented, The confidence of the French in this undertaking seems well grounded on the present disunited state of the British colonies. He followed this with the first political cartoon to appear in an American newspaper. It showed a snake disjoined in eight separate pieces and the separate pieces labeled with the initials of New England, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North and South Carolina. The cartoon caught the attention of many readers and made clear the urgency of its message.
The Atlas V rocket that will carry the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto moves from the Vertical Integration Facility, left, to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Monday Jan. 16, 2006. The spacecraft which will take 9 to 14 years to reach Pluto is powered by 24 pounds of plutonium. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Now 87 years of age, Venetia Phair (née Burney) is the only person in the world who can claim to have named a planet.
What takes 3 hours, 14" Channel Locks, 10" Vise Grips, 2 jeweler's screwdrivers and a handful of toothpicks to remove, and 30 seconds to replace because some dumba$$'s Better Ideatm requires a stupid tool I'd only use once in my lifetime?
If you answered a Super Cobrajet engine, you'd be wrong.
The correct answer is the fuel filter from my Explorer
Happy Birthday Ben! One of my favorite quotes from you is, "all cats are grey in the dark."
. . . and here are the "folks"! |^D
Looking at the "Join or Die" cartoon, it appears that Franklin had little regard for Georgia.
Dead Old Guy bump
Falling in for Muster.
I've been trying to collect Ben Franklin pictures over the years, but everyone wants me to pay 'em $100. My collection now stands at 0. :)
Been there - done that with those Better Idea folks. Different vehicle, different part. Got lucky one day - stopped to talk with a Snap-on driver/salesman and got the tool for $15. Gave the tool to my mechanic s-i-l when I got rid of the car. grrr
Good morning, Snippy nad everyone at the Freeper Foxhole.
The girl who named a planet
Neat story, PE.
Folks, I'm going to be posting a comment on another thread. If you'd like to read it, click on my screename and then "In Forum".
|January 17, 2006
Loving The Unlovable
Zacchaeus was easy to dislike. As a tax collector for an oppressive occupying government, he made himself rich by overcharging his countrymen. Yet, to the consternation of the crowd, Jesus honored him by going to his house and eating with him.
A judge with a reputation for toughness tells how he learned to relate to unlovable people. In a Sunday morning homily his clergyman urged the congregation to try to look at people through the eyes of Jesus.
A few days later the judge was about to give a stiff sentence to an arrogant young man who kept getting in trouble. But then he remembered what the minister had suggested. The judge said, "I looked this young man in the eye and told him I thought he was a bright and talented human being. And then I said to him, 'Let's talk together about how we can get you living in more creative and constructive ways.' We had a surprisingly good conversation."
Jesus saw Zacchaeus as a sinner with an empty hole that only He could fill, and through His kindness Zacchaeus was transformed. The judge could not report any such change, but who knows the long-term outcome? He set a good example for all of us, because he saw the man through the eyes of Jesus. Herb Vander Lugt
True compassion will put love into action.
I am alive...I think...yes I am, just checked.
a week from hell computer virus + 12 hour shifts = lots of fun.
Still working on the virus
On this day in history
2006 Nothing happened.
It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd known I needed the tool before starting. I had changed the exact part on a different model Better Idea vehicle of same year in the past. The retention method was completely different.
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