A list of Benjamin Franklin's inventions reveals a man of many talents and interests. It was the scientist in Ben that brought out the inventor. His natural curiosity about things and the way they work made him try to find ways to make them work better.
Ben had poor vision and needed glasses to read. He got tired of constantly taking them off and putting them back on, so he decided to figure out a way to make his glasses let him see both near and far. He had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame. Today, we call them bifocals.
For more information, visit Benjamin Franklin: Father of the Bifocal.
Even though Ben is not famous for his study of bioscience, he was interested in how the human body works and looked for ways to help it work better. For example, Ben's older brother John suffered from kidney stones and Ben wanted to help him feel better. Ben developed a flexible urinary catheter that appears to have been the first one produced in America.
During Ben's lifetime, he made eight voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. These long journeys gave him a lot of time to learn about ships and how they worked. As early as 1784, Franklin suggested following the Chinese model of dividing ships' holds into watertight compartments so that if a leak occurred in one compartment, the water would not spread throughout the hold and sink the ship.
Everyone knows the story of Ben's famous kite flight. Although he made important discoveries and advancements, Ben did not "invent" electricity. He did, however, invent the lightning rod which protected buildings and ships from lightning damage.
In colonial America, most people warmed their homes by building a fire in a fireplace even though it was kind of dangerous and used a lot of wood. Ben figured that there had to be a better way. His invention of an iron furnace stove allowed people to warm their homes less dangerously and with less wood. The furnace stove that he invented is called a Franklin stove. Interestingly enough, Ben also established the first fire company and the first fire insurance company in order to help people live more safely.
As postmaster, Ben had to figure out routes for delivering the mail. He went out riding in his carriage to measure the routes and needed a way to keep track of the distance. He invented a simple odometer and attached it to his carriage.
In his old age, Ben retired from business and public service and wanted to spend his time reading and studying. He found, however, that his old age had made it difficult for him to reach books from the high shelves. Even though he had many grandchildren to help him, he invented a tool called a long arm to reach the high books. The long arm was a long wooden pole with a grasping claw at the end.
Later, other famous inventors, like Thomas A. Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, would follow in Ben's footsteps by trying to find ways to help people live better. Today's curious thinkers are keeping Ben's traditions alive by inventing new and improved ways to make things work.