Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The First American

The First American, by H.W. Brands
$11.56 in the Hansisgreat Gift Shop
ISBN: 9780385495400
There are a lot of biographies of Dr. Franklin out there, including one he wrote himself. This one reads like a novel, and was nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.
One can't help being amazed at how much this man achieved in so many different areas. We all know him as a statesman, critical to establishing American independence. He's also the noted inventor of the Franklin Stove, the lightning rod, bifocals, and a host of other clever creations.
Did you know he was also an outstanding philosopher. Some of his writings on ethics and religion are truly impressive, written when he was only 22 years old.
Here's something most people don't know about him: on his numerous Atlantic crossings, he conducted some amazing studies on sea life. He was one of the first to propose that dolphins and whales were mammals, not fish; and is widely credited with the discovery of the Gulf Stream, so influential on Atlantic climate and travel.
A marine biologist? Ben Franklin? It's true!
Most of all, he's famous for his cutting edge experiments with lightning and electricity. He was the first to prove that lightning was caused by static electricity when storm clouds rubbed up against each 
other.
Most of all, he was a father figure to democracy in the New World. His altruistic work in Philadelphia society impacts us in modern times. He founded our first hospital, library, fire company, university, stock exchange, philosophical society, and too many other institutions to number here.
He's also known for a fast-paced personal life. Beloved by the French, especially their women, his fame and charisma helped secure French funding for the American Revolution. If anyone singlehandedly won our freedom, it was Franklin, without whom victory over the British would have been impossible. This he accomplished, although he never fought in a single battle.
H.W. Brands is a thorough researcher and outstanding storyteller. The result is a rich and fascinating story, full of twists and turns. There's something to marvel at on virtually every page. This is no dusty, dry history tome.
It's hard to top Dr. Franklin as a role model, truly brilliant and heroic. This is an amazing book on an incredible historical figure, who's never seemed as lifelike, almost like someone you know personally. First class writing on a world class life.

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