Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, Massachusetts, into a devoted Puritan household. (The Puritans were a religious group that stood against the practices of the Church of England.) In 1683 his family had left England and moved to New England in search of religious freedom. Franklin's father was a candlemaker and a mechanic, but, his son said, his "great Excellence lay in a sound Understanding, and solid Judgment." Franklin also praised his mother, who raised a family of thirteen children.
Young Franklin was not content at home. He received little formal schooling and by age eleven went to work making candles and soap at his father's shop. However, he hated this trade—especially the smell. Franklin eventually left his father's shop and went to work for his brother James, who was the printer of a Boston newspaper. While learning the business Franklin read every word that came into the shop and was soon writing clever pieces that criticized the Boston establishment. He loved to read and even became a vegetarian in order to save money to buy books. When authorities imprisoned James for his own critical articles, Benjamin continued the paper himself. In 1723 at age seventeen Franklin left home and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
By this time Franklin had begun to embrace the ideas of such Enlightenment thinkers as the physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) and the philosopher John Locke (1632–1727). The Enlightenment, which began in the sixteenth century and lasted until the late seventeenth century, was a movement that promoted the use of reason to learn truth. During this time period, many important scientific advances and discoveries were made through the use of observation and experimentation.
Civil and scientific interests
In Philadelphia, Franklin began working as a printer. In 1724 he went to England, where he quickly became a...