Benjamin Franklin was a prolific and influential individual long before he became a key Founding Father of the United States. His gifts to the world were not only political and philosophical, the scientific and mechanical inventions of Benjamin Franklin would also add to his legacy as a multitalented and ambitious gentleman. What did Benjamin Franklin invent? The list of Benjamin Franklin inventions includes bifocal glasses, the odometer, the lightning rod, the rotating library chair and false fins for swimming. He also introduced the concept of daylight savings time which is now considered intrinsic to global commerce. The invention that Franklin said gave him the most personal satisfaction was his version of the armonica, an instrument based on the musical tones of glass; the instrument became so popular in Europe that Mozart and Beethoven composed music for it. For scientists and historians studying Benjamin Franklin, inventor is as appropriate a title as diplomat and Founding Father.
Many of Franklin's inventions were conceived of as solutions to his own daily problems, including the grabbing extension arm that helped him retrieve books from the highest shelves in his library. Other notable inventions were designed to solve problems for everyone, including the lightning rod that carried electricity from lightning strikes from the highest point on a building down to the ground, preventing fires that had been prevalent before Franklin mastered the concept of electric currents. He also invented a cast-iron stove with a hollow baffle and inverted siphon that allowed people to use less wood to heat their homes as well as drawing smoke out the back of the fireplace instead of billowing into the home. In 1737, Franklin was made Postmaster of Philadelphia by the British colonial government; in his effort to create greater efficiency in the service of mail and delivery, Franklin invented a measuring device to account for the distance between towns and establish the fastest routes. The Benjamin Franklin odometer was a simple device, by attaching it to his carriage he was able to make precise measurements of distance and eventually succeeded in making the postal service profitable.
The number of devices and concepts Ben Franklin invented is astounding considering his other achievements and contributions to society. As a diplomat abroad, Franklin was able to build understanding and support for the American cause in France and even among some factions of Parliament. In 1774, scandal erupted when he abused his privileges as Postmaster to leak the content of letters from the Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Hutchinson to the British government in which Hutchinson requested more troops to suppress the American rebels. Franklin lost much of his reputation with the British politicians and was stripped of his position as Postmaster. He soon returned to America and became an adviser to Thomas Jefferson during the writing of the Declaration of Independence two years later. Although he did not invent the concepts of the Enlightenment and the science of the Renaissance, he certainly helped to translate them into the American context. Inventor, diplomat, Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin led a life of reason and action that left much to be admired.