Franklin, Benjamin (1706–1790), an American statesman, scientist, and author. He was one of the great figures in the colonial and Revolutionary periods of American history.
Franklin was a distinguished scientist and a prominent writer. He served as a diplomatic representative of the American colonies to Great Britain and, later, of the United States to France. He gained support in Europe for the American fight for independence from Britain, and was instrumental in obtaining the assistance of France for the United States during the Revolutionary War. Franklin is the only person whose name appears on all four of the important documents associated with the founding of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty of alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris (the treaty that ended the war with Great Britain), and the Constitution.
Franklin first gained international fame through his scientific achievements. He was a pioneer in the study of electricity, proving that lightning is an electrical phenomenon. He was granted honorary degrees by Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and other institutions, and was a member of several learned societies.
Franklin was also America's first famous writer. His weekly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, was widely read throughout the colonies. He also published Poor Richard's Almanack, a pamphlet that appeared each year from 1732 to 1757. It contained weather information, a piece of humorous writing by Franklin, and many everyday proverbs and jokes that he collected and rewrote to fit American life. Some articles from it were published in Europe. Franklin's only book was his Autobiography, published in part in 1791 and in complete form in 1868. The book covers the first 50 years of his life.
Few people have been as diverse as Franklin in their interests or as varied in their accomplishments. He symbolized the American character to the world and was the most eminent American of his time.