Benjamin Franklin in Europe: electrician, academician, politician

The Royal Society Wilkins Prize Lecture by Professor John Heilbron of the University of California, Berkeley and University of Oxford

on Wednesday 22 November 2006 at 6.30pm

Benjamin Franklin, American patriot and natural philosopher, was born 300 years ago. When he began his first extended residence in England in 1757, he was already a Fellow of the Royal Society and the winner of its Copley Medal for his revolutionary discoveries in electricity. He did not come to Europe to collect his medal, however, but to represent Pennsylvania in its struggle with its Proprietor. Although his mission failed, he became a great friend of Britain, its empire and its leading men of science. A second mission, on behalf of several colonies, also foundered, and with it Franklin’s admiration of English ways; after a spectacular public humiliation, he returned to America in 1775, a political as well as a scientific revolutionary. Later, in Paris, where he was welcomed as a philosopher and as the ambassador of an independent people, he obtained French support for the American Revolution. The lecturer will describe Franklin’s juggling of science and politics and, perhaps, say a word about his studies of the ladies of Paris.

Public lecture – admission free, no tickets or advance booking required

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