chapter  46
American Research Leadership and Ingenuity
Pages 2

Europeans brought the first wave of technology to Colonial America, where Americans promptly assimilated the old country advances while adding their own individual perspective. Early Americans, though imaginative, were principally at­ tracted by practical inventions from which one could obtain direct benefit. Pragma­ tism, economics and success served as the basis for discovering and applying new technology. One American, however, rebelled against this prevailing view and began experimenting with and implementing his ingenuous ideas. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was among the first leaders in this young nation. Self-taught, he tack­ led such important matters as electricity, the lightning rod, the movement of the Gulf Stream within the Atlantic Ocean, the advantages of daylight-savings time, and calming rough seas by pouring on oil. Franklins ingenuity continued through­ out his lifetime. He introduced bifocal lenses within a single frame to accommodate both distance and close-up use. He developed a more efficient stove that used less fuel. He taught local farmers how to improve acid soil by adding lime. He also invented a machine for duplicating handwritten documents, a simplified clock, and the Armonica. He refused to patent his inventions, preferring them to be used for the good of the people.1 Thus, his generous heart was more than a match for his inventive mind.