Ben Franklins Inventions and Accomplishments


When one speaks of the forefathers of the United States, one of the names that invariably comes up is Benjamin Franklin. Teachers talk about the story of Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm and having the kite is struck by lightning in every generation. He was a passionate man, a patriotic man, and a key figure in what is known as the American Enlightenment. Franklin is often called the “First American” because he was an early advocate for colonial unity and eventually even served as the first US Ambassador to France.

Ben Franklin is known for a number of inventions. Here is just a brief look at what his contributions to innovation happen to be.

The Lightning Rod

In the story of the kite, Franklin wanted to prove that lightning could be attracted to a certain object and that the energy of a lightning strike could be controlled in some way. The initial lightning rods were designed to help prevent a building from catching fire or cause electrocution to its inhabitants. His first lightning rod was developed in 1749.


Franklin is also given credit for the invention of bifocals, or glasses that give people two different optical powers so they can have clear eyesight. This is generally for people who are diagnosed with myopia or presbyopia, but can be used to correct a simple astigmatism as well. Although some dispute that Franklin actually invented these glasses first, it is a known fact that he created a pair and regularly wore them himself.

The Franklin Stove

Before Ben Franklin, almost all fireplaces were lined with bricks. This would allow a home to be heated, but there would be a lot of heat loss that occurred, especially if a strong updraft was occurring. Franklin altered the design of the chimney so that it would be lined with metal. This design created more heat and less smoke. It also featured a hollow baffle and an inverted flue that would help to create a more efficient system.

Swim Fins

One of Franklin’s most passionate hobbies was to swim. One of his very first inventions came at the age of 11 when he invented a pair of swimming fins that would attach to his hands. Although others would discover that fins on the feet were more efficient, Franklin is in the International Swimming Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport.

The Flexible Catheter

Having a catheter inserted is never the most pleasant of experiences, but in Franklin’s day the catheter was rigid. His older brother often suffered from kidney stones, so to ease his discomfort, Franklin developed a flexible tube that could be inserted in a more comfortable.

The Long Arm

Ben Franklin had a great love of books, but libraries in his day were quite extensive and high. Books would be placed on upper shelves and a ladder would be required to obtain one. Franklin didn’t like that concept because it took a lot of effort to go up to get one book to check for a reference. That’s why the long arm was invented, which was a rather simple invention – a wooden pole with a grasping claw.