Interview with Ben Franklin Impersonator

What advice would Franklin have for STEM youth?

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While at the USA Science and Engineering Festival,'s Todd Sierer sat with one of our nation's most treasured inventors, scholars, and diplomats, Mr. Ben Franklin.


Mr. Franklin thank you so much for joining us today.
"Oh it's my pleasure I assure you."


What kind of advice do you have for young people who would aspire to be an inventor like yourself?
"Well as I have met young people in this conference, I ask them if they have questions. I think it's most important that children be given the opportunity to develop their questions, and to ask their questions, and have them answered."

"And I suggest come with questions."


Franklin historians call you an absolutely amazing inventor. On par with Newton and future scientists, innovators, and inventors. One famous invention, or at least discovery, was with light.


What was that experiment like? And what did you learn from it?
"Oh my goodness! Well there were many, many experiments."

"I spent well over two years experimenting with the electric fluid as we called it. We didn't know much about it. We knew there was electricity in the world, but we didn't know much about how it functioned. We didn't know, as I proposed that there was a sameness between electricity and lightning."

"And I spent my time with static electricity understanding the way it interacted with itself. No one else had done that to that point. And my experiments yielded the fact that there was something most unique about this new material, that it had both a positive which I'd called and a negative charge about it. It was both things at the same time. And that positives would repel, and negatives would repel. If you had a positive you could not get a positive together, and you could not get negatives together. They just would not mesh. But positive/negative, absolutely!"


Interesting. So obviously electricity is something that in your day was very much studied. It's had amazing results and impact on our society today in this age. What about some of the other inventions? I think particularly of the Franklin stove?
"Well as a person with curiosity, I realized that if we built a stove, or a fire in our home, most the heat will go right up the chimney. And it occurred to me that there was probably a better way of putting the fire there so that you could use more of the heat. Besides, firewood became very dear, and so you had to be able to make that supply of wood produce as much heat as possible."

"And so I studied heat. I studied the Physics, if you were, of heat. And realized of course that as the heat was coming and creating it was going up, but it was also pulling in cold air. And I realized ultimately that I could, by channeling the fume, bring the heat source into a room, and channel the fume out of the chimney. Bring the cold air in from the room, warm it, and with the hot box in the room, that heat would warm the room. It was a very efficient system."


And still very efficient even today .
"Well I suspect the laws of physics haven't change."


Very true, very true.
"Or shall not change."


That's very true, very good point. What advice would you have for young people similar with similar motivations that you've had in your life, and your youth? What motivation or recommendation would you have for them?
"I would certainly tell young people, it's your world, discover it! Go out! Find out everything you can!"

"Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to learn. And don't turn your back on answers t