Ben Franklin was apprenticed to his half-brother James, a Boston printer and editor of the New England Courant at the age of twelve, and worked with him until he ran off to Philadelphia in 1723. Within a few years he had founded his own successful printing business in Philadelphia and had established a national reputation as the author/publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanack (1733–1758) and numerous treatises on subjects including politics, science, and education. Franklin became one of Philadelphia’s leading citizens, and was instrumental in the founding of the nation’s first public library and numerous other philanthropic, educational, and civic projects. Franklin’s interest in the natural sciences was lifelong and passionate. His work on electricity was published in Europe in 1751 to great acclaim, and he wrote prolifically on other scientific topics as well. He maintained a correspondence and friendship with numerous scientists and naturalists including fellow Philadelphians John Bartram (1699–1777) and his son William (1739–1823). Franklin’s remarkable abilities and energy were such that even before the American Revolution and his crucial role as one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and wartime ambassador to France he had already secured a reputation as one of the leading figures of his age. Franklin began writing his Autobiography in 1771 and, although it was still far from complete at the time of his death, the work has gained a lasting literary reputation.
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