Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World

benjamin franklin: in search of a better world

Online Site Support Notebook: Exhibition Themes

Also see the timeline of Franklin's life at

  • Benjamin Franklin's name evokes many qualities -- imagination and curiosity, hard work and ambition, tolerance and open-mindedness, wit and entrepreneurial ingenuity -- qualities that have contributed greatly to the formation of an American identity and American values. Franklin is closely tied to the American character and American culture, past and present, in the following ways:

  • All of Benjamin Franklin's achievements stemmed from his lifelong desire to understand and improve the world around him.

  • Franklin was endlessly curious about the world around him; he approached his surroundings actively, learning about them through direct engagement.

  • Franklin was open-minded and reflective; he allowed his observations to guide, shape and change his opinions.

  • Franklin valued working collaboratively as part of a team or community. In science, politics, and civic life, he believed that alliances and partnerships were the best way to make good things happen.

  • Franklin was witty, whimsical, and charming. He liked and respected people, and people enjoyed being around him.

  • Franklin's ideas and achievements were multi-disciplinary, problem-solving, inventive and innovative; they always reflected his desire to improve upon the status quo.

  • Franklin had self-admitted character weaknesses -- he was accused of being self promoting and occasionally ruthless -- but he sought to understand them, overcome them, and become a better person (see his Chart of Virtues). Franklin was not perfect, but he recognized it, and produced as much as he could in spite of it.