Franklin, like his contemporary Thomas Jefferson, was a man of many accomplishments and abilities. Franklin was an author, entrepreneur, philosopher, inventor, and scientist, but his most enduring contribution is as a diplomat. Franklin was very active as a state and national legislator and helped to write the American Constitution. But his greatest impact came as Ambassador to France, where he negotiated the treaty in 1778 that resulted in critical French support for the American Revolution.

In 1726 Franklin organized the American Philosophical Society and in 1731 he established the first American library. In his 40s he experimented with electricity and invented the lightning rod; his scientific accomplishments made him famous throughout Europe. He also invented a new type of fireplace that improved the daily life of many people. In 1751 he laid the groundwork for what would become the University of Pennsylvania.

The 15th of 17 children and the 10th son, Franklin received only two years of grammar school education, yet he became one of the most learned men of his time. At age 15 he was delivering papers, and at age 18 he went to London to further his career as a printer. In 1729 he purchased and revived the Pennsylvania Gazette. In 1732 he began publishing the very successful Poor Richard’s Almanack. His success as an author and publisher provided the financial freedom he used to pursue his many other interests during the remainder of his life.