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Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity

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In this new account of Franklin's early life, Pulitzer finalist Nick Bunker portrays him as a complex, driven young man who elbows his way to success. From his early career as a printer and journalist, to his scientific work and his role as a founder of a new republic, Benjamin Franklin has always seemed the inevitable embodiment of American ingenuity. But in his youth he h In this new account of Franklin's early life, Pulitzer finalist Nick Bunker portrays him as a complex, driven young man who elbows his way to success. From his early career as a printer and journalist, to his scientific work and his role as a founder of a new republic, Benjamin Franklin has always seemed the inevitable embodiment of American ingenuity. But in his youth he had to make his way through a harsh colonial world where he fought many battles: with his rivals, but also with his wayward emotions. Taking Franklin to the age of forty-one, when he made his first electrical discoveries, Bunker goes behind the legend to reveal the sources of his passion for knowledge. Always trying to balance virtue against ambition, Franklin emerges as a brilliant but flawed human being, made from the conflicts of an age of slavery as well as reason. With archival material from both sides of the Atlantic, we see Franklin in Boston, London, and Philadelphia, as he develops his formula for greatness. A tale of science, politics, war, and religion, this is also a story about Franklin's forebears: the talented family of English craftsmen who produced America's favorite genius.


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In this new account of Franklin's early life, Pulitzer finalist Nick Bunker portrays him as a complex, driven young man who elbows his way to success. From his early career as a printer and journalist, to his scientific work and his role as a founder of a new republic, Benjamin Franklin has always seemed the inevitable embodiment of American ingenuity. But in his youth he h In this new account of Franklin's early life, Pulitzer finalist Nick Bunker portrays him as a complex, driven young man who elbows his way to success. From his early career as a printer and journalist, to his scientific work and his role as a founder of a new republic, Benjamin Franklin has always seemed the inevitable embodiment of American ingenuity. But in his youth he had to make his way through a harsh colonial world where he fought many battles: with his rivals, but also with his wayward emotions. Taking Franklin to the age of forty-one, when he made his first electrical discoveries, Bunker goes behind the legend to reveal the sources of his passion for knowledge. Always trying to balance virtue against ambition, Franklin emerges as a brilliant but flawed human being, made from the conflicts of an age of slavery as well as reason. With archival material from both sides of the Atlantic, we see Franklin in Boston, London, and Philadelphia, as he develops his formula for greatness. A tale of science, politics, war, and religion, this is also a story about Franklin's forebears: the talented family of English craftsmen who produced America's favorite genius.

30 review for Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    I've been reading "Young Benjamin Franklin" alongside of another seemingly unrelated book, "AI Superpowers: China, the United States and the New World Order," by Kai-fu Lee. The latter emphasizes distinct advantages that China enjoys in the race to develop artificial intelligence as both a source of profit and an instrument of geopolitical power. These advantages include a culture of aggressive entrepreneurial competition, a treasure trove of data, a skilled army of well-educated engineers and a I've been reading "Young Benjamin Franklin" alongside of another seemingly unrelated book, "AI Superpowers: China, the United States and the New World Order," by Kai-fu Lee. The latter emphasizes distinct advantages that China enjoys in the race to develop artificial intelligence as both a source of profit and an instrument of geopolitical power. These advantages include a culture of aggressive entrepreneurial competition, a treasure trove of data, a skilled army of well-educated engineers and a supportive government. Reading Bunker's biography of Franklin's early life (up to the year 1747, when he began his electrical experiments in earnest, I'm struck by how much conditions in early 18th century British North America mirror those in early 21st century China. Franklin's rivalry with another Philadelphian printer, Andrew Bradford, provided the competitive context for the exploitation of a wealth of data emerging on both sides of the Atlantic in the form of new publications and scientific papers. Artisans like Franklin himself, an ingenious tinkerer, had the skills to tackle the difficulties of experimentation with rudimentary and poorly understood apparati. Patrons like James Logan and Andrew Hamilton spurred on the quest for knowledge with political and financial support. Franklin would famously declare upon the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that the framers had created "a republic, if you can keep it." As our country takes on the growing challenge of global competition with China, a look back at Franklin's early career can serve as a source of inspiration and example.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Such a well written insight into one of the world's great inventors. The author has done a fabulous job of providing lots of "new" information abut Franklin's early years and at the same time making it fascinating and enjoyable reading. There is so much information/facts/discoveries packed into this book it is amazing. I enjoyed from start to finish and learned so much. I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dan Cotter

    Very much enjoyed this bio of Benjamin Franklin. Focused on his years through around age 40, it is an excellent book and very informative. I very much enjoyed it. Gives a little more insight into his life and early days than many bios do.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This is an excellent choice to grasp, a little better, the social history of the pre-revolutionary times and to understand the complexity of this historical figure. Not a quick read but worth every moment. Extremely satisfying read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Not a quick read, but interesting. I was wishing there was a volume 2, because I wanted to keep reading about the rest of Franklin's life. The author was very thorough, and brought a lot to my understanding of the social/political/religious thought of the day.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fritz

    Good listen. Learned about Franklin's family history and his youth... Pre-war. Would be worth listening to again in the future. So I could catch parts I may have missed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Not sure it adds much to Walter Isaacson’s account. Also - it would benefit from a little more editing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Audreyg

    Fascinating, and well-researched life of that Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin, up until around the age of 40. A surprise - how much religion was an influence in his life, both for good and ill.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elengay Kunta

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gail T. Goodman

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jim Norton

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ed Bandy

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Alvarez

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  16. 4 out of 5

    Francis

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Pierce

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Braun

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim Connelly

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelleprikhodko

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katie Gierok

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  29. 5 out of 5

    Janis Gage

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ai-Ling Louie

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