Paper No. 189-7
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM
SCIENCE IN THE REVOLUTION: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790) AND FRIENDS
Contrary to the impression given by popular history and literature, Benjamin Franklin was not the only productive, true, scientist in the nascent united states at the time of the revolution that separated the colonies from England. Moreover, the curiosity of his group was by no means confined to electricity and its effects, although that received the most attention both then and now. Mapping was important for all the reasons we use it now: to ascertain borders, to locate resources and transport routes, and to determine the nature of the soils and rocks. The need for boundaries between the colonies and French and Indian held territory resulted in a great deal of mapping. Lewis Evans (ca. 1700-1756) mapped from Pennsylvania and well into New York state, and gave a cogent description and possible origin for the physiographic provinces he saw. Weather was a constant interest, and original contributions were also made in astronomy and navigation. James Logan (1674-1751), mathematician, read and understood newton's works, and owned an impressive library. The botanist John Bartram (1699-1777) observed and recorded fossils as well as plants on his travels. Thomas Godfrey (1704-1749) independently invented the double reflecting quadrant. David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) made scientific instruments, and built a telescope with which he observed the transit of venus. Institutions begun by Franklin and his "junta" of artisans still exist, and still hold many of the books, maps, scientific instruments, and geological and fossil collections from the 18th century.