Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Ben attempts to take one of the earliest known selfies, circa 1792. [Photographed at Palmer Hall, Princeton University.]
Benjamin Franklin was not only one of this country’s Founding Fathers, he was also an accomplished scientist with numerous inventions to his credit - a true Renaissance Man.
Many of us know that Franklin invented bifocal spectacles, the lightning rod, and (obviously enough) the Franklin stove, yet few are aware that he was also a pioneer in social media and its attendant technologies. Poor Richard’s Almanack was originally conceived as an Application (popularly abbreviated Appn) for the STeam-powered Universal Portable Interpersonal Device that Franklin invented. It was, alas, an impractical technology at the time, owing to the fact that wireless communications had yet to be invented. The almost invisible copper threads that were used to connect Franklin’s STUPIDs created an impenetrable network that impeded people’s ability to move about in old Philadelphia, and so the invention never caught on. The Almanack, happily, survived, and the pearls of wisdom therein have become part of American popular culture.
In Poor Richard’s, Franklin warned of the dangers of distracted ambulation: “He that texts and takes a Stroll, May find himself in a Graveyard-Hole.” How ironic that the sculpture pictured above portrays him in the act of ignoring his own advice.