Segments in this Video

Benjamin Franklin: Let the Experiment Be Made—Introduction (03:22)


Hear Benjamin Franklin's words about an experiment with electricity. Historians and biographers share thoughts about Franklin's impact and personality.

Eighteenth Century Culture (02:57)

Hear a portion of the foreword from Franklin's autobiography. During the period of his birth, superstition and fear of witches ruled the day. Most people of the time viewed lightning strikes as the will of God.

Franklin's Background (04:14)

Franklin was the son of a devout Puritan, and a candle and soap maker. As a boy, Franklin's family pushed him toward education as a minister; he was drawn to the teachings of Cotton Mather.

Franklin's Youth (03:08)

Franklin understood that although he was poor, he had strengths and abilities that were not shared by the rich children around him. Franklin taught himself to swim and found pleasure in playing in the water.

New England Courant (04:10)

Franklin wanted to be a learned man and began a methodical program of self-education during his time as a printer's apprentice. He started sending letters to the editor of his brother's paper under a pseudonym.

Franklin Travels to England (04:26)

Tired of indenture, Franklin left his brother. He immersed himself in a free-wheeling and wild lifestyle and embraced the Enlightenment philosophy.

Voyage to America (03:23)

Franklin spent the voyage thinking about the lessons he learned in England and how to apply them to his life. Hear Franklin's planned rules for organizing his life.

Returning to Philadelphia (02:50)

Franklin returned to Philadelphia with intent to become a successful tradesman. He created a social club for young tradesmen called The Junto.

Franklin's Public Image (03:10)

Franklin's rising stature allowed him to borrow enough capital to start a printing shop. After obtaining the business, Franklin turned his sights to marriage.

Franklin the Publisher (03:20)

Franklin purchased a failing newspaper, the "Pennsylvania Gazette," and used it to spread his ideas. He began publishing "Poor Richard's Almanac."

"The Way to Wealth" (06:06)

Franklin published a collection of aphorisms from his almanac. He began the first Voluntary Association to work toward the improvement of his city. His association founded hospitals, fire brigades and universities.

Natural Scientist (02:44)

Franklin continued his exploration of science and invention. He had a unique ability to constantly switch between a myriad of problems without rest.

Phenomenon of Electricity (03:54)

Electricity intrigued Franklin and he set out to build his understanding of it. He spent 10 years investigating electricity and contributed a huge amount of theory and insight to our collective knowledge.

Lightning Rod (06:06)

Franklin set out to prove that lightning from the sky is the same as the sparks generates in his laboratory. After conducting his experiment with the kite, he realized the same materials can channel lightning. Franklin published the invention of the lightning rod in his almanac.

Credits: Benjamin Franklin: Let the Experiment Be Made (01:02)

Credits: Benjamin Franklin: Let the Experiment Be Made

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Benjamin Franklin: Let the Experiment Be Made

Part of the Series : Benjamin Franklin
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Benjamin Franklin is born the 15th son of a modest candlemaker in puritanical Boston, a world circumscribed by superstition and religious intolerance. Taken out of school at the age of 10 and apprenticed to his brother as a printer, young Ben embarks on a remarkable course of self-education, reading voraciously and teaching himself to write. He eventually breaks his apprenticeship and travels to London, where he is exposed to the new ideas of the Enlightenment, which challenged the belief that one's station in life is fixed and unchanging. Returning to America, he settles in Philadelphia, becoming first a printer and businessman and, eventually, the most prominent newspaper publisher, almanac-maker and civic booster in the colonies, creating Philadelphia's first fire department and the colonies' first lending library. Franklin turns next to science, trying to unravel the mysteries of electricity, which have eluded some of the greatest minds of the day. His discoveries, including the relationship between electricity and lightning, are seen as a triumph of reason over superstition. The once penniless apprentice is now the most celebrated scientist in the world.

Length: 56 minutes

Item#: BVL131242

Copyright date: ©2002

Closed Captioned

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