O R G / It's your birthday, Benjamin Franklin

January 17, 2006

As it turns out, today is Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday. Writer, typographer, printer-publisher-politician, inventor, statesman, gentleman scientist, lover, linguist, librarian and the first Postmaster General of the United States, Franklin was the consummate networker -- distributing his ideas far and wide through a dizzying range of practices. He established a network of printing franchises by sending former apprentices to set up shop in a new town and collecting dues; he travelled extensively to London and the Courts of France fostering relationships and helping to form a nation; he wrote incisive arguments and entertainments under a constellation of pseudonyms to suit the purpose-at-hand including The Causist, Silence Do Good, Busy-Body, Poor Richard, and J.T.; he advocated a paper currency to facilitate liberal distribution of goods and services; he (reportedly) spread his affections among any number of women in the Colonies and beyond; and he published a weekly newspaper and the annual Poor Richard's Almanack. Along the way, Franklin pursued his polymathic interests while inventing (a partial list) the Harmonium, the medical catheter, swimfins, the first public lending library, a phonetic alphabet, a university, bifocals, the lightning rod, and the United States Postal Service.

It's your birthday, Benjamin Franklin