5 Surprising Things Invented By Benjamin Franklin

On June 10, 1752, Benjamin Franklin flew a kite during a thunderstorm to demonstrate that lightning is electrical in nature. Here are 5 surprising things invented by Benjamin Franklin...


Franklin’s Lighting Rod Prevented Many Fires During the 18th century, lightning was responsible for many fires, especially to churches, since lightning bolts were attracted to the tallest objects around. In Italy, 3,000 people died when one hit a church basement that had gunpowder in it. Franklin determined that if a metal rod could be fixed to the top of a building and wired to the ground with a cable, it could protect the structure from a lightning strike. He sent the news of this idea of this new protective rod to Europe, where it was used in French cathedrals and churches.

Franklin Invented Swim Fins Franklin was a young man with a good physique, at least according to him, and he credited his good health to being a swimmer. It must have been from an early age because his first invention at age 11 was placing holes through a pair of planks that were oval in shape and using them as swim fins on his hands and later trying them on his feet. His early advocacy of swimming back in the 1700s earned him a spot in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.


Motorists Can Thank Him For The Odometer Mail delivery was a problem back in colonial America. Letters between cities were carried by whoever was available, and post offices were little more than sacks of mail stashed in the back room of your local tavern. Many colonists would make up to 5 copies of a letter and send them in five different directions just to make sure one of them made it to its destination.  When Ben Franklin was appointed postmaster in Philadelphia, he checked the distances between the postal stations by placing a device with gears on his horse carriage’s rear-wheel where 1.6 kilometers equaled 400 revolutions. While modern odometers are more advanced, an example of the one invented by Franklin is at the Phillips Museum of Art in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Older People Are Probably Wearing His Invention As he reached old age, Ben Franklin found himself becoming both near- and far-sighted. Outdoors, he needed a set of long distance lenses, but when he examined something close-up, he would need to swap out his outdoor glasses for a pair with different lenses. It quickly became a frustrating ritual, so Franklin simply cut the two glasses in half and joined them together in one frame, creating the first bifocals.

Versions of the Franklin Stove Are Still Used Today In the days of Benjamin Franklin, fireplaces were used to warm a house during the cold winters in Pennsylvania. But the problem was people were cutting down all the forests and ended up having to travel a long distance to find trees to use as firewood. Franklin was determined to combat the growing energy crisis by finding a more efficient way to heat colonial homes. He solved these problems by enclosing the fire in a cast-iron box positioned in the center of the room. The stove radiated heat from all four sides, and users could control the rate at which wood burned by adjusting the stove's airflow. Safely enclosed, the stove also eliminated the risk of fires being ignited by stray sparks. Versions of Franklin's original design are now a staple of cabins and cottages around the world.