Now and then I delve into Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography (free from Google Play). It is in the form a personal journal, long and detailed, but fascinating as you really get the sense of the times and of this intriguing historical figure from boyhood through old age.
First of all, he was born on January 6, 1706, the youngest of 17 children of his father by two wives — the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back. And the quote I like best is this one: “So convenient a thing it is to be reasonable creature since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”
But I first became interested in Benjamin Franklin a few years ago on a narrated trolley tour in Philadelphia:
- First, we saw the very first U.S. post office, established in 1775 with Franklin as the first Postmaster General, and it’s still open for business today.
- And then our guide told us that in 1740 Franklin founded the Univ. of Pennsylvania, as a charity school for local children, and pointed out a large circular glass dome atop a nondescript building.
- It seems that in 1765 the first and only medical school in the 13 colonies was established as part of Franklin’s school and this was its surgical theater — constructed to make use of as much natural sunlight as possible in a time when operations were performed only by day.
The end of the tour was sad as we gazed through wrought-iron fencing to spot Franklin’s grave at the tiny urban cemetery where he was buried in 1790. Happier is the above public sculpture I shot of Ben and his printing press.