Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was one of America's greatest statesmen. He was a diplomat sent to France to seek aid for the colonists, and he helped frame both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
Franklin was born in Boston, the tenth son of seventeen children of a soap and candle maker. At twelve, he was apprenticed to his half-brother James, a printer. He worked as a printer in Philadelphia and for a time in London. He published the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard's Almanack.
A prolific inventor, Franklin devised the Franklin stove, one of America's first practical heating devices. The stove was a portable, coalburning apparatus with a pipe connecting it to the chimney. By arranging the flues in an efficient way, he could make his sitting room twice as warm with one-fourth as much fuel as he had been using.
He invented the glass harmonica and bifocals and the Franklin lightning kite. But his interest in civic matters proved as profound as his interest in inventions. He organized the first circulating library, helped establish the first fire company, and founded what is now the University of Pennsylvania.