Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Remembering Benjamin Franklin

Academic Elephant has a nice post on Benjamin Franklin, illustrated with a bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon. Franklin was born 300 years ago today.

By the way, if you haven't read Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, you've missed a treat.

Also by the way, if you haven't seen Houdon's sculptures of the great men of his day, you've missed another treat.

I wish I knew where I've packed (or lost) a book I have on science and technology in America. (Moving has its moments...) I remember that the author noted that we tend to think of Ben Franklin as a wise, balding, paunchy old man, when in fact he became the darling of society when he was young and athletic. This author (whoever he was), was, as I recall, trying his level best to get folks to appreciate the younger Franklin.

That's a nice thought, and not a bad reminder that much of our early history here in the United States was due to young whippersnappers running around refusing to be denied their rights as Englishmen. But, I have to admit, it's the thought of Franklin soothing his hotter-headed colleagues in latter days that sticks with me, and the paintings of him as an older man that spring first to mind.

Ah, well. Whatever age you care to remember him at, here's a toast to our Mr. Franklin: genius, diplomat, courageous man, possessed of sharp wit and common sense, a man who knew his history as well as changed it, and a character, to boot. What more could you ask of in a Founding Father?

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