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Profs & Pints: The Genius of Benjamin Franklin

October 18, 2018 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0

$2 – $12

Profs and Pints presents: “The Genius of Benjamin Franklin,” with Richard Bell, associate professor of history at the University of Maryland.

Benjamin Franklin’s genius is a puzzle. Born the tenth and youngest son of a decidedly humble family of puritan candle-makers, his rise to the front ranks of science, engineering, and invention was as unexpected as it was meteoric. Despite having only two years of formal schooling, he would end up receiving honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and St. Andrews, as well as the 18th century’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize for Physics.

Like his hero, Isaac Newton, Franklin was driven by a perpetual dissatisfaction with the world as he knew it. He optimized, tinkered, and improved. Hardly the tortured genius, he took a schoolboy’s pleasure in everything he made. Experimenting was a constant source of beauty, pleasure, and amusement for him, even when things went wrong (which they did all the time).

In this talk Bell will examine many of Franklin’s ideas to make life simpler, cheaper, and easier for himself and everyone else. It turns out that those ideas encompassed not only natural science and engineering—the kite experiments and the bifocals for which he is justly remembered—but also all sorts of public works, civic improvements, political innovation, and fresh new business ideas. His experimenter’s instinct, his relentless drive to build a better world one small piece at a time, even encompassed innovations in medical device design, in music, in cookery, and in ventriloquism.

Richard Bell, who previously gave a fantastic Profs and Pints talk on African Americans in the American Revolution, returns to discuss what lessons—and great intellectual habits—we all can learn by examining Benjamin Franklin’s life.

Advance tickets available at


October 18, 2018
8:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
$2 – $12
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The Bier Baron Tavern
1523 22nd Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20037 United States
202 293-1888
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Profs and Pints
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