2 Mar 2007 All day CRASSH


 Benjamin Franklin

Convenor: Paul Kerry (Brigham Young University)

Benjamin Franklin, the kite, and the key – it is an iconic image. Franklin's success in various fields as printer, inventor, civic improver, and statesman, has been celebrated once again during his recent tercentenary. But scratch the surface and intriguing questions about him and his ideas loom large. This conference will reassess Franklin in four areas. What did Franklin actually 'discover' about electricity in the eighteenth century? And did Franklin's science hold any meaning for later scientists? Although his activities as a diplomat are well known, Franklin's political thought is virtually unknown. Did he have a political philosophy or was he the quintessential political pragmatist? The roots of Franklin's religious views and ethics are hotly debated given his status as an American 'founder'. His Autobiography (1791) lays claim to being the most widely read memoir in the world, even as it has become a model for a popular American genre, that of the 'self-made man'. From mass culture to national monuments, Franklin is pressed into ideological service (as well as onto $100 dollar bills), but how has Franklin come to be so central to American identity? A group of transatlantic scholars has been assembled to explore these and related questions about one of the most popular and yet elusive figures of modernity.

In connection with this conference Dr Patricia Fara takes part in a conversation about Enlightenment, Science, and Benjamin Franklin on Thursday 1 March.


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk