Although he is perhaps best remembered as a statesman, having contributed to the drafting of the American Declaration of Independence and been instrumental in persuading the French to side with the colony against the British, Benjamin Franklin was most famous during his lifetime for his numerous inventions.
1717 Invents a pair of manually operated swim fins.
1751 Experiments and Observations on Electricity is published in London.
1752 Franklin conducts his seminal kite flying experiments in a series of thunderstorms. At considerable personal risk, he proves that lightning is a form of electricity. The first lightening conductors appear on the market shortly afterwards.
1752 While serving as Postmaster General, Franklin invents a simple odometer to calculate the distances of postal routes.
1752 To help his ailing brother Franklin invented a urinary catheter, which improved upon previous models.
c. 1761 Franklin invents a glass armonica. He later said of the instrument ‘Of all my inventions, the glass armonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction.’
1783 Franklin observes the world’s first manned balloon flight in Paris. When a fellow spectator questions the utility of the new invention, he remarks ‘Of what use is a new born baby?’
c. 1784 Franklin invents bifocal spectacles.
c. 1785 The ageing Franklin unveils an instrument for taking down books from high shelves.