- from Ben Franklin
What made Ben Franklin, who had only two years of schooling, a leading scientist of the eighteenth century?
The answer is that he was curious. Ben couldn’t help wonder why things did what they did or how things worked.
Gypsum is a chalklike substance found naturally in rocks. Ben saw that spreading gypsum on a field made grass grow greener. He suggested farmers put it on their crops. That’s why he gets credit for the idea of using artificial fertilizer. He was also one of the first to figure out why so many printers, painters, and plumbers were getting sick. They were all suffering from lead poisoning.
Ben wanted to know why it took so much longer to sail from Britain to America than the other way around. So he talked to whaling captains from Nantucket. They told him about a rapid current that runs through the Atlantic. We now call it the Gulf Stream. Franklin decided to chart this current. On his many transatlantic crossings, he recorded the water temperature several times a day. He discovered that, “a stranger may know when he is in the Gulf Stream by the warmth of the water, which is much greater than that of the water on each side of it.”