The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are arguably the most popular works of Benjamin Franklin. But, aside from being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he was also a celebrated inventor, who brought the world amazing things, discovered new ways to handle things like waste management and utilize electricity, as well as founded many institutions in America that are still alive today.
Sometimes, people forget that Franklin was the mind behind many of the most mundane things we can think about. Here are 7 things he made that continue to make an impact on our lives today.
|Bifocals / Photo by: Daderot via Wikimedia Commons|
Franklin was plagued with presbyopia for a long time, a condition that made it difficult for him to see objects at different distances. And so, in his frustration, he decided to invent the bifocals. These are eyeglasses that allowed people with presbyopia to see objects that are near them, through the bottom part of the glasses, and help them with reading, as well as those that are further away, via lenses that were less convex on the upper portion of the glasses.
|Flexible urinary catheter / Photo by: Saltanat ebli via Wikimedia Commons|
The Flexible Urinary Catheter
Another invention of Franklin that had to do with the medical world, this thin tube that was “inserted into a patient’s urethra in order to drain urine from the bladder” back then were made from painful metal tubes.
Franklin’s brother at the time suffered from kidney stones and he had to watch him in excruciating pain just to get the catheter in. To help his brother, he took it upon himself to find a much more flexible material to use for the tubes.
|Swim fins / Photo by: Alexander Z. via Wikimedia Commons|
Here is where the mundane objects come in. According to How Stuff Works, a website offering explanations to thousands of topics, Franklin started out with the swim fins by just holding two planks in his hand and using them for extra thrust in the water. Later, he would go on to improve them some more.
|An old political cartoon / Photo by: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons|
It would probably be too arrogant to say that cartooning was also something that Franklin invented. What he did, instead, was to serve as the catalyst that would later inspire artists to use their cartoons to depict political problems. The first political cartoon, as stated by How Stuff Works, was of a “snake cut into eight pieces: one piece for each of the colonies,” with a warning at the bottom in all capital letters: “Unite or Die.”
|Franklin stove / Photo by: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons|
The Franklin Stove
By now, it is reasonable to think that Franklin had as many ideas as he had time and resources to make them come true, because if you didn’t know, he invented a stove, too. The Franklin stove was his answer to the peskiness and inefficiency of fireplace cooking. By using a cast-iron box in the center of the room and allowing heat to circulate better, Franklin gave people a safer alternative to the standard fireplace.
|Lightning rod / Photo by: txlopez via Pixabay|
The Lighting Rod
Before the lightning rod, lightning storms plagued entire regions of wooden cities in the 18th century. The solution was to pray that lightning didn’t strike. Of course, in this case, prayers can only do so much. After the catastrophe of 3,000 people dying when an Italian church basement filled with gunpowder was struck by lightning, people decided they had had enough.
It was during this time that Franklin had just retired from the publishing business. He simply suggested that a metal rod be “fixed to the top of the building and wired to the ground with a cable.” It worked and was first adopted by churches in the French countryside.