Benjamin Franklin: Scientist, Diplomat, Gullible

Born in Boston on January 16, 1706, Benjamin Franklin rose to greatness from humble beginnings. However, he never outgrew his gullibility.

In December of 1776, Franklin, the ambassador to France at that time, journeyed to Paris to meet with King Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette, who as we know from history couldn’t keep her head on straight. However, it was Franklin who lost his head when he repeated what prankster and fellow scientist Joseph Priestley told him to say to the queen: “Vous avez de grandes oreilles.” In English that translates as “You have big ears.” That miscue stalled talks of an alliance – the French did not join the Revolutionary War until two years later in 1778.

The ordeal with Marie Antoinette was not the first time Joseph Priestley had gotten the better of Franklin. In the early 1750s, Franklin had a wart on the underside of his chin, which his common-law wife Deborah Read wanted him to remove.

Priestley told Franklin he had heard that to remove warts that a person could tie a key to a kite and fly the kite in the middle of a thunderstorm. Franklin did so and lost the top half of his left-hand thumb.

He later on added to his contributions to society with his inventions of the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and a musical instrument.

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4 Responses to “Benjamin Franklin: Scientist, Diplomat, Gullible”


  1. 1 Lisa Summers May 19, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    uck, yet enlightening. . .

  2. 2 David McDowell January 25, 2010 at 10:49 pm

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