Franklin's often thought of as a comfortably plump old gentleman, urbane, witty, diplomatic. He was on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, served as America's minister plenipotentiary in France during the Revolution, and helped negotiate the final peace treaty with Great Britain afterward.
But that was Franklin in his 70s. He began working in a printer’s shop at age 12, earning enough money to retire in his early 40s. He then began his second, and perhaps most remarkable, career - in science. Franklin was the first American to win an international reputation as a scientist, and the first scientist ever to become famous wholly for work done in electricity. The very terms we use for electricity are Franklin's: plus, minus, positive, negative, charge, battery.
He invented the lightning rod, of course, as well as bifocal glasses, the rocking chair, and the Franklin stove - all still in widespread use 250 years later. He published the first chart of the Gulf Stream, contributed to our knowledge of atmospheric convection currents and the movement of storms, and conceived of "Daylight Savings Time." As one biographer summed it up, "He had great curiosity, amazing versatility, astonishing genius, and, above all, an enormous capacity for self-discipline and sustained work." (Lemay, American National Biography VIII, 394. See also Dictionary of Scientific Biography V, 129-39.)
This statue, erected to Franklin in his capacity as printer (he holds a rolled copy of the Pennsylvania Gazette), stands near the west end of the Brooklyn Bridge, in an area formerly known as "Printers Row" because it included the offices of the Times and the Tribune.