Did you know...
Well, if you knew that and thought is was funny, Stefan taught me it belongs into the recycle bin of urban legends. But lets try again:
Did you know...
... that Benjamin Franklin was so sure that fresh air was important for good health that he took a daily “air bath”?
Well, I didn't know until today. See, that's what being married is good for, you learn how to get along with your ideas about bathing.
Besides this, Benjamin is known for the invention of the lightning rod, the chimney and the public library.
While I was browsing the web for interesting stuff about Franklin, I found this website where you can have Fun with Franklin. Among other things, you'll learn that a necessary ingredient for a lemon battery is '1 adult helper'. But besides this, upon the mere mentioning of Franklin, I kind of feel the responsibility to remind you 'Never play with electrical cords, wires, switches, or plugs. - Fly kites and model airplanes in a wide open field or park never near overhead electrical wires.'
Yes, yes, you'd have thought after 300 years, people should know:
"(19 March 2006, Belize) Benjamin Franklin reputedly flew his kite in a lightning storm, going on to discover that lightning equals electricity. However, certain precautions must be taken to avoid sudden electrocution. Kennon, 26, replicated the conditions of Ben Franklin's experiment, but without Ben's sensible safety precautions. Dennon was flying a kite with a short string that he had extended with a length of thin copper wire. The copper made contact with a high-tension line, sending a bolt of electrical lightning towards the man. Just bad luck? Kennon's father told listeners his son was an electrician, and "should have known better." Kennon is survived by his parents, six sisters, and five brothers."
But besides providing an everlasting inspiration for the truly ingenious, Franklin was also actively involved in the first scientific clinical trial:
In the 1780s, the Viennese physician Anton Mesmer came to fame with his theory that "animal magnetism" may be an important determinant for the health of the body and the mind, and that magnetism could be used to cure all kinds of diseases. In a time when electricity was recognized as a driving force for the muscles in the body, this idea could not be easily dismissed as plain nonsense.
There were many arduous fans of Mesmer and his healing methods. But there were skeptics, too - one of them was Louis XVI, the King of France, who wasn't as mesmerized as his wife, Marie-Antoinette. He wanted to know for sure what was there about these theories of this Austrian physician, and commissioned a report by high-level, international and interdisciplinary committee of experts to find out.
Headed by Franklin, and including the chemist Lavoisier, the botanist Jussieu, and the physician Guillotin, the panel carefully planned and conducted experiments to test Mesmer's hypothesis. In their public report, they concluded that there was no scientific evidence of animal magnetism. Successes of Mesmer's cures could be attributed either to other factors, or to a placebo effect. I bet they'd been interested to hear this frog's idea about animal magnetism.
One could go on and on about Franklin, if you are really interested, you might want to read his autobiography. But from all the interesting things about this great man's life, I want to share with you a quotation that I found about our search for the truth:
"Perhaps the history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow; it constantly exists, and does not seem to require so much an active energy, as a passive aptitude of the soul in order to encounter it. But error is endlessly diversified; it has no reality, but is the pure and simple creation of the mind that invents it. In this field the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties, and all her beautiful and interesting extravagancies and absurdities."
(In the preface of the 1784 Report of Dr. Benjamin Franklin and other commissioners, charged by the King of France, with the examination of the animal magnetism, as now practised at Paris)
For more fun with Franklin, check out this very professionally designed website, it's just a looker.
PS: Sorry Stefan for messing up your pedagogically valuable essay.
TAGS: HISTORY OF SCIENCE, USELESS KNOWLEDGE, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, BATHTUB