Ridiculous History: When Benjamin Franklin Remade the Alphabet

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Just about everything you could imagine a man like Benjamin Franklin to be, Benjamin Franklin was. He was the classic polymath, a genius in just about any discipline he set his mind to. From elder statesman who presided over the founding of the United States to inventor, scientist, postmaster and diplomat, Franklin left no professional stone unturned.

As an inventor, Franklin created many much-needed items that we still use today. Bifocals are a popular invention of his, as is the lightning rod. He also invented things you wouldn’t normally associate with him, including swimming flippers (for the hands), flexible catheters and an odometer. The hallmark of any great inventor is to take something that we all need or already use and improve it in a way that makes it invaluable. The bifocals exemplify that sort of thinking. Franklin himself needed two different pairs of glasses to see, and the bifocals made his life easier.

“Much as the imperfections of the alphabet will admit of; the present bad spelling is only bad because contrary to the present bad rules: under the new rules it would be good …”

— Benjamin Franklin, 1779

Franklin’s boundless enthusiasm for improving things even carried over to the English language. The inventor thought that people were easily confused by the differing rules of spelling, and he took it upon himself to solve the problem…

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