Appeals: Benjamin Franklin

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The Independent Online
The facade of 36 Craven Street, London WC2, where Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), the American statesman, inventor, writer and philosopher, lived on two separate occasions for a total of 16 years. The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House are appealing for pounds 400,000 for the first phase of restoring what is now the only one of Franklin's houses still standing.

Franklin, the youngest son and 15th child of a Boston candlemaker, worked as a printer, in England and America, and as a newspaper proprietor before joining political life in 1736. By 1754 he was postmaster-general for the colonies. He began researching electricity and discovered that lightning and electricity are identical. In 1757, on his second visit to England - which lasted five years - he successfully negotiated the right of the province to tax landowners for the cost of defending their land against the French and the indigenous Indians. While living at Craven Street he flew metal-tipped kites over the River Thames during thunderstorms as part of developing a lightning conductor, and he discovered the positive and negative charges of electricity.

His third visit to England, from 1764 to 1775, highlighted the mounting difficulties between Britain and its American colonies: Franklin unsuccessfully disputed the right of the British government to tax the colonies, which were not represented in parliament. While in Britain, he also invented bifocal eyeglasses, a 24-hour clock for navigation, watertight bulkheads for ships, the glass harmonica, the Franklin Stove - which burns its own smoke, saving fuel and reducing pollution - and the air bath, a forerunner of air conditioning. On his return to America, Franklin supported the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 and continued representing his country abroad until two years before his death.

The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House want to restore the building so that it can create a memorial to Franklin. There will be a museum, a library and an American Cultural Centre for the International Study of Anglo-American Heritage. So far about pounds 35,000 has been raised. For further information, contact: The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, c/o Royal Society of Arts, 8 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6EZ, telephone 071-839 7717.

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