- from Ben Franklin
What made Ben Franklin, who had only two years of schooling, one of the leading scientists of the eighteenth century?
The answer is that he was extremely curious. Ben couldn’t help wondering why things did whatever they did or trying to figure out how things worked.
Ben noticed that gypsum (a chalklike substance found naturally in rocks) spread on a field made grass grow greener. He suggested farmers put it on their crops. As a result, he’s credited with the idea of using artificial fertilizer. He was also one of the first to realize that lead poisoning was the reason so many printers, painters, and plumbers were getting sick.
Ben wanted to find out 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 what we now call the Gulf Stream, a rapid current that runs through the Atlantic. Franklin then set out to chart this current. On his many transatlantic crossings, he carefully 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.”