Today is Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday. If you had asked me about Mr. Franklin about 10 years ago, I would have described him as a scientist who discovered the wonders of static electricity at a substantial personal risk by flying a kite into a thunderstorm. That was of course his most famous experiment. I don’t know where do I put the blame for not knowing more about this brilliant person whose scientific accomplishments are only dwarfed by his social and political achievements? Partially it was me, partially it was the rote learning methodology used in most schools in India and partially it was the tendency of Indian textbooks to downplay American personalities.
In any case, thanks to a great documentary on PBS, I now know that Benjamin Franklin was a person who wore many hats, each one of them with flair. He was an explorer, a scientist (a true geek if ever there was one – while coming back from England on a ship he discovered the Gulf Stream and many times he entertained his friends by showing off his experiments), an audacious flirt (as I read someplace today – geeks everywhere should worship him because he was the geek who got laid) and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. If you will take a moment to discover this website, you will probably be as amazed as I was in learning about Mr. Franklin’s contributions towards the betterment of everyone’s life.
And of course, as I mentioned in one my earlier posts, in my view Franklin’s role in the American revolution is very much like Sardar Patel’s in India’s state reclamation movement. Crucial, rock solid, workman like and yet not as glorified as the contributions of more charismatic leaders like George Washington (Nehru in India’s case).
Happy Birthday Benjamin!
(image courtesy http://www.benfranklin300.org/)