Joss Delage

Best bio of Ben Franklin?

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Hi - I am looking for recommendations on Ben Franklin biographies. Brownie points for unabridged books on CD / tape...

Many thanks,

Joss

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Hi - I am looking for recommendations on Ben Franklin biographies

I have read two biographies of Franklin; "Benjamin Franklin, A Biography" by Ronald W. Clark and "Benjamin Franklin" by Edmund S. Morgan. Of these two books I found Clark's significantly better. Like any American I had heard the story of Franklin's flying his kite in an electrical storm in order to capture lightning in a bottle, but I really had never understood it's significance.

Clark begins his biography with a discussion of Franklin's experiments in electricity. Here I learned that Franklin was truly the first scientist to understand and explain just what electricity was. And equally as important as the fame he justly accrued for this discovery was the fact that this fame became crucial in America's struggle for independence.

There are many Franklin biographies, and I'm sure one of them is likely superior to Clark's, but I don't think you could go too wrong in reading this one, at least for starters.

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Thanks. Right now I'm reading (or more exactling listening to on audiotape) Franklin's autobiography, which is a lot of fun, but not extremely deep.

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I know this is a very old thread that has not had a reply in over 4 years, but for those that have concern I hope my posting to it will give pleasure.

I have read many different things about Benjamin Franklin from many different authors to include Franklin himself. But, the best biography that I have read to date is one published in 1938 and written by Carl Van Doren which is simply titled Benjamin Franklin. The book is almost 800 pages long and gives insight into the daily life of Benjamin Franklin that up until that point in time was not known as Benjamin Franklin's notes and diary were for the most part not released. For anyone that wants to gain a better understanding of such a brilliant man, I highly recommend this biography.

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It might be interesting to contrast and compare, after reading them, a great biography of Franklin and Franklin's own autobiography. How would the stories differ? How would they be the same?

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Jim,

The biggest contrast to the biography I mentioned earlier with the Franklin's autobiography is that the reader gets a glimpse into many of the day to day activities that Franklin himself does not mention. Carl Van Doren not only uses Franklin's diaries and written works of all sorts, but also other people's works that had contact with Franklin.

For example, Franklin does not mention in his autobiography that while coming back across the Atlantic from France/England for the last time that he was still curious of many different things. Franklin took water temperatures daily from mulitiple depths and he wrote a paper on the subject and sent it off as soon as he arrived back in the United States. And at 80 years of age Franklin is still thinking of the future as he creates plans to expand his house by building a library and other rooms.

In Franklin's autobiography we do not get a glimpse into the man's daily activities such as his thousands of meetings with all sorts of his contemporaries. He meet, did research, had lunch, had dinner, lead mulitiple groups and had discussions with many different people to include philosophers, scientist, politicians, kings, queens and so many more people that it is unreasonable to list them all here.

So, to answer your question, the overall story is obviously the same. The depth of which we get a glimpse at this man is deeper in Carl Van Doren's biography than Franklin's own autobiography. And although I would still offer that people read both, if one did had to make a choice I would recommend the biography over the autobiography.

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