Franklin's genius is a puzzle. Born the tenth son of a humble family of puritan candle-makers in Boston in 1706, Franklin's rise to the front ranks of science, engineering, and invention was as unexpected as it was meteoric. Here is a man with only two years of proper schooling who later received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and St. Andrews as well as the eighteenth-century equivalent of a Nobel Prize for Physics. Like his hero Isaac Newton, Franklin's great genius lay in optimizing, in tinkering, in improving, and in never being satisfied with the world as he knew it. In this talk with University of Maryland historian Richard Bell we will examine many of Franklin's ideas to make life simpler, cheaper, and easier for himself and everyone else. It turns out that those ideas encompassed not only natural science and engineering, but also all sorts of public works, civic improvements, political trail-blazing, and fresh, new business ideas.
Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and is author of the new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home which is shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. He has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor for teaching faculty in the Maryland state system. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Center for History and Culture, as an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
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