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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 4, 2013 7:00am-8:16am EDT

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>> you are watching booktv. next, jonathan lyons recounts the introduction of the enlightenment to america and the role that benjamin franklin played in its develop and. this is a little over one hour. >> thank you for those kind words. i'd forgotten about some of that stuff. it's always good to get a refresher course. it's really wonderful to be here in seattle. as i mentioned to some of you when i first arrived, i wife and i only recently relocated to the pacific northwest. we are based out of portland, oregon, having left washington, d.c., the other washington. there is one institution i miss and that's the library of congress where i wrote this book, most of my three or their books as well. but i know the lord of life and quality of discourse will be greatly improved. and i know also that benjamin franklin would be particularly pleased to know that if speaking
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here tonight and that he would commend this institution on its civic mindedness. franklin was what was known as a projector. he loves -- loud projects, social projects. knowledge was a social activity and that was exemplified by the program get here at town hall. i do have to say one thing. i think he would probably frown at the roman revival architecture. [laughter] again as a hel hope to make cle, franklin was an implacable foe and felt it was a real weight around the neck of middle-class and a spotting workers who are to get education. i will speak for about 35 minutes roughly i'm helped allow a lot of time for questions. i've been told this is an audience, an event good for discussions and questions. i welcomed the.
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going to parts i like are giving lectures and interacting with students. i'm not taking all the other stuff. probably why i mostly write books. in any case, before i launch into an overview of the project i want to go you about the history of this particular book. as you probably gathered from the very kind and detailed introduction this is a new direction for me. it would be fair for you to be wondering where that direction came from the i'll tell you this much. that direction came from a footnote. i'm one of his readers, and i'm sure some of you are, the like to read footnotes. not those footnotes that have citation of page number but where an author contributes something, recognizes that, in fact, or point of discussion is worthy of inclusion but somehow doesn't fit into the narrative. that's richmond to for me because i can come along and say that's pretty cool. maybe i should look into that. so i was reading something
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completely unrelated to american history. probably come as no surprise that it was a work of cultural -- relationship between islamic world and the western world. there was a footnote and mentioneitmentioned the role ofe societies for useful knowledge. and i thought wow, that's something i need to look into. and i did and the reference was to the british institution but as i started to explore the subject i found that the very rich history here in america, and as i get more and more involved, the figure of benjamin fran quinn kept kind of encroaching on my thinking -- benjamin franklin. saga started to look at this movement as i called for useful knowledge through the eyes of franklin and she's his life story to tell the saga, the genesis and development and importance of this new movement, useful knowledge. it's not is a wrote a biography of benjamin franklin. i very deliberately did not.
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working in library of congress is don't because of the size of the collection. if you go to the catalog or go online and putting benjamin franklin title search is over 1000 volumes. so i figured the market was century with tragedies of biography. instead the society for useful knowledge explores the roots of early american technology and science. these are forces that steadily transformed this country first into an industrial superpower and only then into a geopolitical one. accounts of such inventiveness are the stuff of legends. we talk about the wright brothers, thomas edison, steve jobs. steve wozniak and, of course, we did and many others. henry ford, bill gates. local boy makes sense. comes to mind. we often had this phrase only in america, and is often associated with these kind of figures, only
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in america could to bicycle mechanics launch the aviation industry, and so forth. what's important is all of these figures share a number of traits. they were largely a holy self-taught. they were not products in formal education. as a result they had freed themselves from the constraints of conventional wisdom and traditional authority. they preferred practical solutions to theoretical discussion. they were in essence engineers, not mathematicians. in other words, they were separating practitioners of what i mean by useful knowledge. now, attends and joe to explain america's technological prowess i found generally revolve around the notion that if it is our political and social systems that provided the ideal platform for innovation and was associate economic growth, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness. so in this view it was "the new republic" shaped by the founding
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fathers that set the stage for an explosion of innovation during the 19th and 20th centuries. gr explosion we can all continues to this day. key component of this success would include the creation of liberal democracy, a laissez-faire approach to capitalism, the passage of strong patent law and other protections for intellectual property. yet, i would argue that this is what is known as a history of the present. that is, it is a misreading of historical development derived by working backward from today's america. and by overarching purpose in writing "the society for useful knowledge" is to propose a very different reading of american history. as i show in my book, and as i can only really outlined to you today, the american revolution represents less a turning point and a significant milestone and
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a journey that begins not at lexington and concord, in the spring of 1775, died in a study circle, public library, and useful knowledge societies that took shape in colonial cities and towns almost 50 years earlier. so long before there was a boston tea party or any other overt acts of defiance to an aerial british rule, american practitioners of useful knowledge and the institutions that they developed successfully challenged the social, the political, and intellectual order of the day. the accompanying knowledge resolution which is epitomized by franklin and the circles, and his immediate circles begin as early as the 17 \20{l1}s{l0}\'20{l1}s{l0} freed of the colonists of constraints imported and imposed by europe. it was this knowledge that laid the groundwork for american independence. so the central actors in my
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story, not surprisingly, are not the founding fathers per se although a number of them to make cameo appearances. jefferson of course was very involved in science. washington and hamilton among other members of the american philosophical society, which i'll talk about a few minutes. and, of course, franklin straddle both the political and scientific world. rather my focus is on an earlier cohort, crass and an independent farmer captivated by two particular ideas borrowed from european enlightenment, and been shaped by the american experience. so what were these? one, the value of learning and knowledge, that is what we would call information updated perhaps today, is directly proportional to its practical import or utility. in other words, to be of any real value, knowledge has to be truly useful. and second, that anyone, not just the highborn, the well-educated, those fluent in
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latin and greek, could take part in the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of science and the pursuit of knowledge in general. so what we really have here is this growing movement that sort of gathered momentum was a movement for useful knowledge was a challenge to traditions through an educational system that was relatively restrictive. colonial education was dominated by the senate and they wanted their sons, is only their sons at the time who received higher education, to have the mark of a real gentleman which meant latin and greek learning. franklin and his circle start to see things quite differently and at one point he writes a letter to your woman who used to bring in natural philosophy or science, and he says what signifies philosophy that does not apply to some youth? this is very much franklin's mantra and became kind of the slogan of the movement for
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useful knowledge. another aspect worth highlighting is anyone could contribute. these ideas came out of england perhaps mistaken john locke, david hume, among others, had proposed a new way of doing science. one that allowed for not just the elite but the petty merchant, the craftsman, even the unskilled foreign trade labor could contribute something meaningful to science. but it really was american conditions where we didn't have an entrenched system of ruling elites. we had elite's borrowed and came across the ocean with the early colonists, but there was much more fluidity within the social system. and so as a result there were demands from the bottom up for education, and education that was truly useful. so if the american rebellion wasn't -- as i argue, they knew
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utnaries? so let's take a look at some of the leading figures in early american movement, the useful knowledge, all of whom appear as important characters in my book. i'm sorry, that's the wrong one. there we go. benjamin franklin, of course we'll talk to and if humans in the few minutes and his role in breaking through sort of knowledge barriers by the european. but before that i want to just a few of the figures who are perhaps less known. the farmer and botanist john bartram. he was a quaker regulate outside philadelphia. he grabs a got drawn into the intellectual life of philadelphia through franklin. and his associates. we will speak about him a bit more later. thomas godfrey, godfrey was a member of franklin's inner circle. and he invented an improved
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quarter for navigation the keys and the splits off to london which was then the heart of the anglican science, clinic credit for a new improved method of navigation. and someone independently had envisioned a very similar system, happen to be sitting on the board of the royal society which was then the main arbiter of science. you can guess what happened, who got the official credit. it was eventually sorted out and godfrey has been recognized as a coinventor of improved quadrant. ebenezer kinnersley. ebenezer kinnersley was a mission was in trouble, congregational church in philadelphia. franklin who was a big newspaper publisher at the time had gone to bat for him but failed. so ebenezer kinnersley was out of work and franklin suggested that he take the results of their electrical experiment, take them on the road as a tenant lectures. ebenezer kinnersley became the
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most successful lecturer in american colonial history, traveling from the far north all the way down to the caribbean. these lectures were very important to the movement for useful knowledge because they gave access to the latest ideas and inventions, experiments and hypotheses as to a very broad audience that was not university trained. and it also highlighted the fact that knowledge was a personal face-to-face experience big we go to one of ebenezer kinnersley electrical shows and he would give you a few minutes of explanation about the latest thinking, about electricity, but the concept was to get out his apparatus and generate static electricity, people would touch the globe, their hair would stand on them. he would shock people. they which is electrified swords without all our other spirits on fire. it was all a good show but it's not just show. who are two very important aspects. one was it was much more widely of able to a broader audience but even more importantly 18th
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century science was very much connected with a bottle the experience of knowledge. it was not the theoretical realm. it was very important to the practical knowledge move and come useful knowledge movement that people could see for even experienced for themselves the effects of the scientific phenomenon. then finally instrument maker david rittenhouse, really stands out as a self-taught instrument maker and an astronomer. april the very beautiful and very complex planetary them known as -- imagine a clock that only tells you the time and the phases of the moon but it purports to tell you the accurate position of all five visible planets for any given day forward in time by 5000 years or backward in time by 5000 years. it really was a wonder. it did two things that were important to got the attention of the europeans which was an amazing feat. but it also gave the founding
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father generation a model of the universe that works according to the laws, precision be the wound it up, lifted the weight and it ran on its own. this was very much an attractive political and social model that we reset these rules for behavior and society like the universe, like you which is run on its own. i put the dates of their birth and death here for a reason i want you to know virtually all of them, franklin communicates because he lives alone. and rittenhouse was a little bit younger. but for the most part this generation predated at least their formative and mature, preview the american revolution project and the birth of "the new republic." their energies were largely devoted to ideas and images that would improve the quality of colonial life, overcome the numerous obstacles facing the community and expand its
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scientific our ricin. franklin called these people than mid-length sorts. what's notable about these figures and many others around them were, in fact, their social origin. most were drawn from the urban craftsman or artisans rather than from the ranks of gentlemen who typically held sway in a lot of towns and cities. collectively they were known as mechanics, the word of course we didn't associate with car mechanics. quite a rich history. they came together not only to pursue science and knowledge in general, but also to advance their own social economic and political interests. contemporary, particularly british usage defined the mechanic as a practitioner of quote those arts were in hand and body are more concerned than the mind. and in england the term again it carried with it residual class
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prejudice. this was very much not the case here in the new world. there's a shortage of skilled labor and call an american so there were a company with high wages. franklin's own father had come from oxford shire in england where he came from a long line of silk dyers and that was his profession, he was unable to change his profession within the guild system. but when he came to america he found dying of silk was not in great demand. he became a candle and soap maker. this is a pattern that followed quite consistently without restrictive guild does chelation, people were much freer to pursue new interest, to develop new skills. and that played into this notion that we can have useful knowledge, practical knowledge that advance is not only our own social position with that of our society. so as a result many of these master craftsman or even
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mechanic or even a lowly tournament could aspire to become an independent entrepreneur with considerable economic security and a company social status and political influence. this movement was further mode, particularly annually by the puritans added more so in and around philadelphia with large quaker population, both put a premium on labor and particularly on the nobility of labor. so working with one's hands producing something, laboring honestly was a social good that perhaps and carried connotations that it didn't always carry back into europe. so as a say in the journeyman could help the state in the funds to buy land and becoming independent from our to go into business for himself. it is wrote franklin cannot artisans lived easily in america than in europe an such as a good economist, make a comfortable provision for age and for their children.
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and 17 from seven franklin and 11 others formed the leather apron club. the leather apron was warne wory crass and an artisans and a leather apron was a collective way of referring to this rising class. so they call themselves the leather apron club but it was very quickly known as the junto. the leather apron was of course the badge of honor for these members of mechanics. i want to rekey a brief section from a book about the niece of the junto. we are in philadelphia in 1727, and he needed a there after. franklins own groups and assumed as the junto combined into the amount of a private drinking club with the vantage of a mutual aid society, the moral and intellectual self-improvement of a discussion circle, and the altruism of a civic association.
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members were -- membership was restricted to 12 and proceeds were conducted in secret. all the better to advance participants projects, facility planning, and pursue career advancement. had also protected the junto, argued frankly, who by the way was the biggest proponent, from awkward solicitations for membership from friends and associates. gatherings of the junto were held at the indian thing happened on market street, one of the oldest drinking establishments that were integral to philadelphia civic life. here, out of town visitors could find lodgings and locals could hold meetings, attend concerts or sample the light -- the latest news in gaza. the masonic lodge, another franklin project, later have some of its earliest meetings at the indian team. the final order to evacuate american forces and leave it down to the dancing british in september 1777 was issued from the bar. but for now the junto that each
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week at the indian had to discuss personal and professional advancement of its members. as was the prevailing eating of science or natural philosophy. and the language of social improvement. quote the rules that i drew up require that every member in turn should produce one or more queries on any point of morals, politics, or natural philosophy, to be discussed by the company, recalled franklin. in addition, each participant was expected to deliver an original paper once every three months. now frankel was very organized person as you may have guessed, and he wrote that what he called queries to the junto. id was before each meeting, each junto member was to wake up early in the morning and read this list and then think about it throughout the day, hopefully that was something he could contribute at the meeting. so have you met with anything in the remarkable are suitable to be communicated to the junto?
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we see the breath of subject, history, morale the composer, physic, travels, mechanic arts or other parts of knowledge? do you think everything a president which the junto and the server will to mankind? to their country, to their friends or to themselves? this last question is interesting because while members were interested in the own advancement and that of their rising social class, the leather aprons, knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge was seen as a civic good for the broader community and so the emphasis on being a service to mankind is in italicized for a reason. so franklin outlined in this program and he drafted in all two dozen greaser questions to guide discussion. it wasn't all talk. he noted at one point we must quote cause while one might feel entering the gaza want it after
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all they were meeting in a tavern. in the summer months members gathered outdoors for calisthenics. they even have their own club song and franklin decreed that it should be quote home to in concert by as many as can come it. over time the junto embers as a driving force in the civic life of philadelphia. the projects focus on the needs of fellow mechanics on a practical solutions to economic and social problems facing this new class of americans. so the junto really wasn't any debate of practical solutions. let's look at some of them. paper currency. the provinces in and sabina suffer from a huge shortage of paper currency. this was okay with the economic and political elite because they're mostly creditors. they look at the issuance of paper money would devalue the value of their outstanding loans and interest payments. but for grasping, particularly a r ke franklin, they hadith or a
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to go into debt to buy supplies. are reaping the steps were very difficult. franklin wrote one of his best early papers, educating for the creation of a paper currency. the idea grew out of junto discussion. he showed them draft. they were coming together and now as the owner of a printing press it also print it. which he did. and he wanted a. eventually be assimilated pass a law creating paper currency, overriding the traditional interests of the elite. not surprisingly, franklin benefit as well. how? the assembly gave franklin's printing press a contract to produce the currency for pennsylvania. eventually extended his contractual arrangements with nearby new jersey and delaware. they created fire brigades. philadelphia out of her small wooden houses packed together. and get create the lightning rod.
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so the junto create the basis for fire brigade and for fire insurance. they improved street lighting and clean. franklin tweeted the design of the street lamp to make it more efficient, burn brighter. franklin stove, where did that come from? the junto was debating one day to problems with contemporary heating technology. one is the high price of firewood. don't know about today. and the fact that they all lived in very smoky houses. and so the was a high-efficiency are relatively high efficiency self which we call the franklin stove. they called for pennsylvania still pretty published a plan in his newspaper. significant i think franklin never patented any of his intentions. i know what interest there were some important supreme court cases of intellectual property and whether a certain type of
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dna could be patented and the court ruled that it could not but in the run up to the case the advocates for patent protection recording all the founding fathers about the importance of intellectual property. and yes, there is quite a strong record in that regard but i think that argument overlooks that for franklin, jefferson, washington, for all these people, it was a social aspect of knowledge that was important, not the individual right to convert on one inventor. these products that we associate these development, including lighting rod which we associate with franklin, and it's a net to do with these workgroup efforts. and he knew that. the library company of philadelphia grew out of a project to pool the members book into one collection so they could swap books and span the horizon. it found three problems. one i is they all had the same book or two, they didn't have the many books at three, kept forgetting whose books were who said i was running around chasing books. if you read the "pennsylvania gazette" of the date there are notices saying, i lost my copy
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of john locke commuted, addition of six, 1728 or whatever, doesn't have it? i can't remember to whom i lent it. so they decide to create a subscription library and expanded the circle and that laid the groundwork for a number of subscription libraries, mostly run by mechanics. some run by laborers. heavily influenced by quicker choices -- quaker choices in literature and science, the most pocketbooks if you look at what the earliest catalog was in addition to john locke were books on how to do a sick mathematics, how to do scientific experiments. some of millions of similar works. this laid the groundwork for the great philadelphia public library system. we all will have the pleasure of speaking -- both the library of philadelphia and american philosophical society grew very,
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very slowly. while i am invited to prevent -- present this book there it will not be until march 2014. the junto was also upset and franklin in the pennsylvania, philadelphia is a leading city, didn't have a college or university or even an institution of an academ academa note. so they lay the groundwork for what became the university of pennsylvania. franklins efforts on behalf of the university of pennsylvania should be seen as a smashing success. one of the great institutes in this country. however, in franklins mind it was a complete failure. why was that? franklin and the junto raise money, proposed outlined the potential curriculum, develop a marketing plan, raised the money, and the name -- main thrust is we will -- focuses on practical knowledge. surveying, mathematics,
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engineering, latin and greek we will put into one site. however, when the elite of philadelphia managed to take over the board of trustees they overrode all of these plans and so the english curriculum or the english school as is called was given second position, short thrift and an eventual almost a step into his very dyin kind thy franklin was extremely bitter about the way his program had been hijacked and is my, -- in his mind. so here we have a lovely and fairly, not so widely known for and that's why include this picture of young franklin in a fireman's cap. leading the charge to protect the houses as assets of his fellow leather aprons. so let's look at the knowledge society. the 18 central very much an age of a learned society, the royal society of london which i mentioned before.
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about what it's forming is the royal society of london for the improvement of natural knowledge. was the primary model for the americans. the quaker farmer, john bartram, together with franklin proposed the first american society in 1743. however it took a number of decades for the idea to truly bear fruit. at one point franklin writes to a friend, the gentlemen are very idle to they will take no pains. john bartram was more -- blame it all on propensity of his fellow members to said that the taverns and play dice. the example set by philadelphia with his lively intellectual -- spurred a number of imitators and eventually the movement for useful knowledge would take hold in washington which was now the new national capital. trenton, new jersey, albany, new york, alexandria, virginia, and as far south as carolina and mississippi, and as far west as kentucky. more specialized knowledge association devoted to
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manufacturers, improvements in agriculture, the study of natural history. there was even a military philosophy society founded at west point. these all of your as well. these groups were invariably local or regional in scope and if you look at the names, they almost always have at least a town or city a solution within and often a province. it was very specific to the early precursor to the american philosophical society with a number of names that include something like the philosophical society of the society for advancement of useful knowledge or practical knowledge held in philadelphia in the province of pennsylvania. and from our perspective when you read this, it is sort of silly but it's important to understand in 18th century thinking, knowledge and its pursuit was a personal face-to-face experience. it had to be done locally. had to be done through face-to-face, through lectures. you have to have members needed to live nearby ideally so they
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could come to regular meetings. this also the vantage of giving a broad section of each of these communities access to these localized groups. when it was impossible for one to get together, the knowledge movement organized very highly directed systems of correspondence, jenna courtney buck a secretary or other functionary to fill in the gaps. many of us will probably recall from our school days that franklin was postmaster. he wanted to be postmaster a couple of reasons. he wanted a pretty good salary. he wanted the social status. but most of all in that day, they paid -- franklin could send letters and receiving for free. he wanted to act as sort of the clearinghouse for scientific corresponded. and he could do this at no cost. so he lobbied very heavily and became first postmaster but one
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of the things he did was expand the reach of the postal system, not just expanded the reach of colonna businessmen and corresponds in general but to expand his own reach within the scientific system that he was developing. but one of the greatest obstacles facing the early american efforts was the entrenched european prejudice against colonial science. it was widely accepted at the time that the colonies would act in nearly as suppliers of raw materials. narrative accounts of strange animals or diseases, the bones of unknown critters and so on for study, classification and explanation of the natural philosophers back in the mother country. this information would be sent back as science. so in this way scientific knowledge follow the same pathway as trade and basic commodities and the subsequent transformation into high-value finished goods for sale back to the college.
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think of iron ore. iron ore shipped out of virginia goes back to england, eventually made into fuel and is fabricating to steal them for much which are then shipped back to the cones and sold at high market. this is the essence of the colonial mercantile system. there was a parallel of knowledge economy in which science, raw materials, were provided by americans, john bartunek associate and it was one of the leading suppliers but they were not supposed to be science. the science was done in the mother country. as they say the career of john barger really illustrates a phenomenon. he was a farm smh on a remote property outside philadelphia. and as he was drawn into the intellectual life of the junto eventually became an active collector our behalf of the royal society in london. he worked for the swedish botanist and at one point he even for the british king.
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the london merchant and royal society member peter collison serve as the main contact. at his direction boardroom traveled widely abandon his farm and his recent time to fulfill the endless requests for more specimens. i want to read briefly from a chapter devoted to john bartram. by all accounts bar, bore up remarkable under these exacting demands ranging far and wide entering members hardships in the wilderness to fulfill his mission. on an expedition to the cedar swamp in new jersey, to collect pinecones for the duke, bartram struggle against the elements he writes in his journal. i climb the trees in the rain and lopped off about them a stand up in my needs -- to my knees and snow. he declared two weeks of what he calls painstaking efforts to track down the rare will leave
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oak only to have most of his treasured acorns quote about by squirrels and hogs. no request was too demanding or too daunting. the american furnished scans are hornets nest, samples of native ginseng for proposed export scheme to china could even live turtle eggs that collinson received just in time to see what hatch. for the most part collins and as colleagues were not particularly interested in what apart from might think of a first hand experience mike allen but only in what he can collect and then send back to europe for their study and analysis. in fact, collinson openly discourage the american from engaging in scientific speculation. quote the box is seeking very safe and in good order, a report in one letter. my remarks on them are very curious. but i think take up too much of that time and thought i would
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not make my correspondence burdensome but must desire you to continue the same collections once again. to out the lengthy corresponded, collinson is explicit that is only the opinion of the experts back in europe that carry any weight, and he dismissed bartram's own views on the existence of two separate rights of american cedar, the red and the white. until the details of the plans could be examined by natural philosophers in london, in oxford, berlin. quote, half a dozen by way of specimens will be sufficient. for though you call a white cedar, we are in doubt. what class it belongs to until we see the seed pods. collinson right afforded some of bartram's sample this expert calling suicide them latin names and equipped with the latest thinking on land classification. then returned these rulings to bartram for his own edification.
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quote send more seats, collinson request in a letter of march 4 -- march 14, 1736. on the specimens went to oxford. when i sent back with the names, you shall hear from me. by contrast franklin and his colleagues known as the philadelphia electricians, force the europeans to make room for american suspects let's take a look at what they did. they confirm the identity of electricity and lighting. the notion that lightning in the sky and electricity produced in the laboratory or in the lecture hall were one and the same have been taking around for quite some time. the great french expert have noted that sparrows electrocute in the lab, cut them open and look at the innards, resembled the innards of a man who had been struck by the lg signs.
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the sound of a lightning strike seemed to mimic a much greater bond of course the snap of electricity from a capacitor or other device. but it was franklin and the americans who really made a breakthrough by coming with a practical means to verify this notion. they also fed the plausible explanation of the leyden jar which was a simple compressor, and you could charge that and it would hold a charge and you could release it to shock your neighbor or your friends or your guests at a lecture. they invented and named the battery. stringing together a series of leyden jar to do distinguish between negative and positive electrical charge. and they set the stage for the development of the lightning
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rods. in 1753, the royal society of london awarded franklin its highest honor. this is essentially the nobel prize in our terms, nobel prize or something unlike bartram and others whose works could be absorbed seamlessly into conceptions of plant and animal life, franklin and his fellow electricians produced nature achievement in basic science can one that featured a revolutionary theory to explain observations derived from extreme edition. the adulation of a society marked a quick reversal of fortune for franklin and four clinical science. initial reaction for the work of the philadelphia electricians have been dismissive.
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subsequent findings were quote laugh at. i mentioned his fisher says undermined by franklin's approach and he refused to believe his eyes but it was overwhelmed by the absurdity that it could be an american scientist. he confides that ally that the so-called benjamin franklin guy was surely a fictitious creation of his own jealous rivals in england. i had a lovely picture here of coming portrait by benjamin west showing just how important and popular imagination was franklin was with the lightning rods. protecting mankind from the ravages of the lighting. franklins expense were carried out around the world. there's a lovely japanese woodcutting i found in the collection at the library congress. this is not the kite experiment. this is known as the sentry box
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experiment. it was carried out in europe before franklin got a chance to try it out and successfully demonstrate the identity of lightning and electricity. franklin excelled at the art of scientific correspondence. that is, the exchange of information with colleagues across europe and throughout the colonies. what we today would call social networking. overtime establish himself as the chief representative of science. this helps solidify his position and proceeds enabled him to spur his work and ideas and influence around the world. and also rebounded to his benefit and to the cause of the american rebellion against the british. franklins procedure as a scientist made him an advocate for the american cause. many of you may be from a with
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the book about john adams which was made into a film. franklin is in france, the revolution is on going. he is representing the american cause, trying to get the french to come around with more money and eventually with military support. adams is sent over there and he is furious. what's franklin to? he's sleeping late, eating enormous meals, drinking wine, going to dinner and these floating with all the rich women. adams is apoplectic. you got to be doing something. what he didn't understand was that franklin was, in fact performing very effective diplomatic act. how was he doing that? he was already a scientist of enormous reputation in france and now he is coupled it was sort of the examples that he was an american stage, a wise man, and carry enormous weight with leaders of french public opinion and eventually with the court. but it deeply upset adams wrote to his wife who said when this is all of people say the history of the american revolution was
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franklin with his lightning rods and george washington with his sword, and basically meant no one were remember poor john adams. if the philadelphia electricians put signs on the map in america's contradiction -- contribution was to make sure stay there. in 1751 and in 1769, the planet venus could be seen to traverse the face of the sun. this is a rare but recurrent phenomenon and can be used to help determine the absolute size of the universe. about black dot moves across this on you measure it, it's transit time and you can work out what's called the solar parallax. this allows a relatively accurate determination of the earth's distance from the sun.
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for the newly amalgamated american philosophical society, the society that franklin and barger had dreamed up in 1743, by this time it had taken root and he can to function. and 769 transit venus on june 6 provided an ideal awful ashton and opportunity. it's never well aware that successful observations and the production of accurate data could secure for the americans to respect of the skeptical europeans. successful efforts by the philosophical society primarily of david rittenhouse his farm outside philadelphia, to observe and record the transit helps you its position as american premiere knowledge association. in fact, american observations eventually proved to be among the most accurate of any taken worldwide. i thank you for the count of the pennsylvania observations which seem excellent and complete, and
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do honor to the gentleman who made them. franklin and his many collaborators i should into a true knowledge revolution. one that preceded the political rebellion against the british colonial masters, in which opinion they establish economy of knowledge. it's ideas going to be found in the declaration of independence and the understanding digest of the republic. and affect it involves many of the same figures. i would like to conclude not tonight with a brief greeting from the end of the first chapter which i've called the age of franklin. while the useful knowledge societies played no direct role in this revolutionary enterprise, they gave practical expression to the widespread ideas and attitudes that informed first to clone a rebellion and integration of a new nation and a new society. one you don't class at the interests, experience and
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attitudes among the signatories to the question of independence and the founding fathers, franklin, jefferson, rush, adams, madison, hamilton and charles carroll among them. to recognize just how deeply such notions went to the heart of the american revolution. in a letter to athens in 1816, jefferson summed up the prevailing sentiments of this revolutionary ginned -- generation. were destined to be a barrier against returns of ignorance and barbarism. old europe will have to lean on our shoulders and hobble along our side under priests and kings as she can. with a final political break with great britain that america was now free to shake off the meddling of priests and kings and to realize the implicit drain of the natural order. that is, one of harmony and reason that had been perverted by an imperfect europe. of course, the immediate -- left
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the citizens of this new nation facing an uncertain future. bereft of many of institutions of old europe, lacking any capital and manpower, without great libraries or universities, and cut off from traditional markets by lingering british hostility and the threat of naval blockades, the new free and independent states have little recourse but self-reliance and practical study. franklin society for useful knowledge and his many imitators, collaborators and successes among the virtue and ingenious men of the former colonies pointed the way to an american future. thank you. [applause] >> we have about 20 minutes for questions. so if you'd come up to this microphone, please try to keep your question in the form of the
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question. at which he will be signing copies of his book which is also for sale at the table in the lobby. >> i would like to add in addition to the website and e-mail, i have some business cards with me if any of you would like to stop by and visit my website which talks about "the society for useful knowledge" but my other books as well. questions? >> i wasn't that thorough. [laughter] >> i have a question. spent i think it would like you to come to the mic if you don't mind, sir. >> was he also successful in a financial sense? how did he rank him as they come with washington as one of the
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founding fathers who were bill gates and paul allen of arctic? >> okay, thank you. well of course washington married into all that money, right? rankin was actually successful, and it's very interesting. the main source as you all an kw an issue for the on the many luxuries of franklin. franklin is a real challenge for the historian, for the analyst, for the cultural commentator, for the rest of us. because he left behind an unfinished but voluminous work, his autobiography. the autobiography was written in three to four distinct stages. the latest scholarly edition was edited by people that yale university. it is not quarterly accurate. franklin had different motivations, and yet, and yet it is the basis for almost all biographies. it is a real problem, teasing out franklin from the franklin,
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that franklin want you to know. and if you look at the stage at which he wrote you can see that he had probably different motivations than mine and the road over 20 or 30 years. initially he seemed to be riding it for his son, which he says, and a guide to living well, doing the moral thing, request for more perfection to overtime it comes royal -- world figure. so the story shifts in tone and register. and becomes one of success, and it leaves out a lot of very uncomfortable facts about franklin. teasing ou out the real front ws kabul good but i will give my answer to your question. and that is that franco was an action as to do business been while he didn't patent these inventions he realized that the way perhaps an academic today might write a book that will not sell well and make them lots of money but it's part of the package being a successful academic. not something i with you last night but franklin realize all
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these things were to his benefit. user social benefactor. he was president of the board of trustees. didn't follow his direction or didn't approve the program he abdicated. he was actually successful as a businessman. all these things are it came together and you create an aura of success and you become a more successful. he worked extremely hard. he had a number of early setbacks, but he became the equivalent of the most successful printers in the college. and then he started parceling outcome he would buy pieces of newspaper. he would buy land and harvest the trees and the paper would be produced. soviet papermaking interest. he owned pieces of news paper integrating and. he made so much money that by 7460 the 7460 provide a friend and basically say okay, i'm done. he brought in a partner.
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he became a subpart himself and exchange for an annual stipend basically gave the business over to david hall. franklin writes to his friend in new york state who is also a would be sciences and this base of going to devote my life to suspect all of interesting pursuits which i couldn't do before. he got sidetracked by politics of course as we know, and got deeply involved in representing the colonies in the british courts. there's some evidence he hoped that he would replace the william penn family at the head of pennsylvania that pennsylvania would be transferred into the royal family and the king would appoint him general. some say when that didn't happen that's when you begin a firebrand republican. i think it's more obligated than that but it is remarkable that he was late to the republican party, as it were. but we need to join come he joined, he jumped in with both the. was one of the most radical
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members of that generation. and had we today the franklin constitution rather than the constitution we have, we would have a one term executive who was unpaid. a unicameral legislature, and many other innovations, which province pennsylvania had. so yes, he was a very good businessman. and he turned a profit whenever he could, but he saw his success tied up with social success. i think that also gets back to the associate that you don't necessarily patent the things that you develop. he didn't see them -- is a controversy i think in the last election with obama i think it was suggested that people who get ahead in society are drawn from other sources besides their own individual, at a cost a lot of controversy. franklin would agree 100%. at the same time he was very quick to make a buck and very good at it.
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he died a very wealthy man. yes, sir. >> can you draw any parallels between the society of useful knowledge and lead developers? you mentioned edison, with the big industrial push for the human invention? >> absolutely. this was a thing i develop in quite a lot of detail in "the society for useful knowledge," especially in the latter chapters. that it was really, franklin last great association of franklin as this it was a projected on a lots of societies. his last great project was the society for political inquiries. which was formed very late in his life. one of the mirrors of the site was a gentleman named cox. he was a loyalist and come in philadelphia and when the prince came in he thought okay, he's on the winning side but that didn't work out. as we know. and he managed to stay one step ahead of the law.
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largely because it very high social connections with people who have maintained good relations with the revolution a generation but also because he was so useful. he was particularly useful as a publicist and as an economist. you start writing papers for madison and adams, jefferson. he was just too useful to throw in jail as a possible, as they loyalist sympathizer and the lead go. franklin endorsing heavily and cox was interested because he was the first of this circle to see the connection between application and the development of the american industry. for hamilton in particular in, this is really the beginning of an american machine. so i would argue that and what i try to live at the very beginning by talking about it, mentioning it in some of us other example is that they are
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the direct outgrowth, the direct beneficiaries of the movement for useful knowledge which was about getting things done. said edison invented the lightbulb, the tungsten light bulb? he tried every maturity to think of. that's not the radical science. what is that? that's perseverance. that's dumb luck or not, or you have deep pockets to do or you get lucky or 100 other reasons but that is not science. so he tried different filaments and he came up with one that worked. bingo, he hit the lightbulb. that's not to diminish his achievement anyway but to put in context. i would suggest the creation of the great land grant university in the late mid-19th century really was again another expression of america's infinity for practical sense and practical knowledge. what's also interesting is that in this earliest period in the late mid-18th century, americans are interested in practical applications of
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electricity. is applied to medical therapy, applied even to psychological problems, applied -- without any recourse to thee, at the same time the europeans are trying to take this practical knowledge out of the salon, out of the hands of the itinerant electrician come out of the hands of the medical practitioner or the clock, and put it in the university, in the laboratory, controller. so knowledge goes from a widespread social phenomenon in europe, much earlier, into a television and an institutional experience meant it for many, many years, earlier than it does in america which really not to the rise of the scientific community is much, much later. so yes, i draw a straight line from the junto 1727 and edison, all the way up through dates and beyond. thank you. >> thank you. that was engrossing.
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i came in 10 minutes late so maybe you mentioned why it's called junto. >> i didn't actually, and i don't really know to be honest the and i'm one of the few writers who will say i just don't know. i think it's an explanation of our definition of a small circular secretive group are, in fact, there's an interesting element in the history of the junto, 12 members, franklin and 11 others. the other 11 were lobbying for disbanding it. franklin really was against that. so he said okay, here's what you do. anytime -- junto member can go out and recruit 11 other members and have your own junto and you won't share that membership with the original. so if you think about it, what is that? that's a mom that the russian revolutions use in the 19th century, that the revolutions in latin america. exactly what franklin insisted on it being secretive, i've never really figured that out spent the next question is,
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[inaudible] and also on this and i was curious why somebody wanted to disseminate useful knowledge of it, secretive thing. it didn't sound like he was protecting privilege or elitism, so what was the investment? ..
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research parties in the country, and the other thing with what is the franklin institute do today? well, of course what we call the republican party is later than the period i'm working. if you read the history. there were notions of the republican faction. we had the jefferson and the hampton. the great debate was the nature of the future society they were creating. jefferson, for most of his political life, there's a lot of evidence at the end of his life, especially with the war of 1812 he realized it wasn't possible. no debt, no real industrialization. it was so big could keep
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expanding and run itself as a agricultural society and sell the surplus food and bring in whatever import it needed for the own requirement. hamilton would push for the rapid industrialization among the british model so they could compete. hamilton's basic program was pay off the debt from the war which was cripping. create a centralized currency and central bank, industrialized develop dwop trade treaties. jefferson became president and they sometimes see the world differently. and the war of 1812 in particular sharpened his focus. he wrote to a friend, if i can find it quickly, i will. he basically says that, you
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know, thanks to the brits, just like satan pulled adam and eve out of paradise. the british -- pulled us out now we have to become a modern society. -- those are not the parties we associate today with the term. your second question, sir? i'm sorry. today it's mostly educational. the american philosophical society, and i go in to a lot of detail about how the association came together and setback and triumph it's very much active as a society today. it's very pretick -- pray pretentious. it's a wonderful thing to get in to it. they sponsor scholars.
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they have been very active. it's interesting if you read the official history of the american philosophical society they date their own founding to the 1783 proposal by franklin, which was get these what he called sort of talented people of the colony together in to a society. of it not that simple. when i go there, next march i guess i'll have to straighten them out a little bit. [laughter] sir? >> franklin -- let the gene any out of the bottle with knowledge. does it seem to be recaptured for the next 100 years by capital and university? along came the internet and everybody has knowledge, it's one of the biggest things confronting the world today. would franklin, in your opinion, be for the knowledge being spread to everybody? >> absolutely. it's a good observation as i
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mentioned in response to this gentleman's question. the americans were trying to test the -- the europeans were doing exactly the opposite. it was capital. it was institutions. it was universities. there's often this era is referred to as a age of wonder. there's a famous and popular book by that title. the problem with the notion is while it was happening, the "age of wonder" was ending very quickly in europe. science and knowledge were being pushed in to a boat, as you say. the notion was to control knowledge. where as franklin, i see franklin deliberating knowledge as a result to the extent that the internet liberates knowledge and we see the limitation now. the early promise would have been 100 percent supportive. >> the knowledge that one -- [inaudible] i'm sorry?
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>> any subject and before that was very limited to very elite group -- >> absolutely. franklin has a wonderful note. he would rather have a recipe for parmesan cheese than any italian of a latin inscription. something like that. he was opposed to the notion that knowledge should be restricted. and the restrictive device was the use of latin and greek. he fought hard for the english program at university of pennsylvania. >> this is the last question. make it a good one! >> here it comes. you think the -- think tanks and the land grand institution are acting like franklin was dealing with? >> i think they are a wonderful
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innovation. the rest of us can go to university. yes, i see it as a outgrowth and kind of knowledge and pursuit they were engaged in. the idea that, i mean, francis bacon, 100 years earlier came up with a notion that anyone can do science you need an observer mind. even a laborer can clear the brush. [inaudible] everybody gets a chance. absolutely they would be supportive of that i think the movement has been -- is the deemphasis in the american popular culture if not the broader completely the
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broader culture. devaluing the area. i for example, majored in russia in the 1970s. before they thought i was going to major in tbreek greek and latin. i majoritied in russian. i remember the question i got most often is what are you going to do with that? i went to college during the cold war, my point it was what couldn't i do. that's the question you get today. liberal arts, you know, i teach in the liberal arts aspect that divisions of universities and the crisis what do we teach them about -- in fact, i'll let you in on a little secret, i thought --
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some of these development. i got more engaged i saw it was fundamental. writing the book was a journey. this is where the journey took me. i want to thank you once again. [applause] there's a long standing myth regarding nevada u.s. senate who served in the senate from 1913 until his controversial death in 1940. the myth is this that he died before the election. just days before the election and the democratic party kept his body on ice in order the voting public wouldn't know they were electing a dead man to office. why? in order the governor would thin
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appoint a democrat to the vacant seat. this is repeated over -- i heard it as a kid. it's repeated a the the legislature. and i had the opportunity to find out whatd truth is. initially, why got some death certificate from a funeral home. i pulled it. it showed he died five days after the election. a heart attack. it could have been forced. i saw the name of the attending physician. he was conating things to me at the nevada historic society. when he came in the next time, i got up the mozz. sincerity to ask him. i heard you were a prominent position and keith of your client. i've heard the wildest stories. his body was kept on eye. he asked if i wanted to know the
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truth. i read it in a book, a myth. a prominent book that he was kept on ice in tone pa. what bart said he was in reno. he was in the last staijts of his campaign. he was a functioning alcoholic but things were getting worse. he was out. people came to his house and got to look at keith. he's dead drunk but could be more. he's not conscious. it could be a problem. take him to the hospital. took him to the hospital. they brought in a heart specialist from san francisco. this man will not live to return to washington, d.c. well, they told him to lie to the media and say he's under the weather again. he's been drinking again. he'll thank everybody after he was elected. the fact is he won by a land slide again. he died five days after the election. we know he was alife not only
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because bart told us. we the diary of his wife who showed up to washington, d.c., and noted came. saw him. he's happy. we know he was alive. the story itself though continues to live. and people want to believe that somehow somebody would keep somebody on ice and that kind of deception would be something that nevada or perhaps others would do. i've enjoyed exploding the myth. the true was there was a deception. they elected a dying man. not a dead one.
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>> what is on your summer reading list. >> "the interesting" on my night table. i read a lot of books on meditation and then. i'm also reading a book called the "the buddhist way of meditation" i do meditate. i've done yoga for thirty years. i'm always catching up on that part of my reading. mega's book is very much the next thing i'm going read. "the interesting" by megawolitzer. it starts with a group of teens in an arts camp and taking thement forward to the 40s and 50s. >> let us know what you're reading this summer. tweet us @booktv. post it on our facebook page or
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send us an e-mail at should be a flow of communication available to everyone in the country. so it's just like the electricity. we turn on lights, we don't even think about it. it's an input in to everything we do as a country. communication schowb the same thing. because we've ban little confused. there's a lot of fog around the issue. people have a sense that internet access a luxury. what is interesting that electricity was treated as a luxury too. in the early 20th century water everybody needs and slct for the rich. it took decades to change the perception from one thing to another. we're in the middle point right now that internet access is viewed as something slightly magical or expensive. but talk to someone trying to run a business from his home. for him internet access is just like -- he can't even get going without
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having that reasonable price connection. now there's no option for it. >> how america's economic future is being controlled by companies controlling ark excess -- abscess to the internet. jonathan alter reports on the 2012 presidential election and president obama's re-election team unit losed analytics. this event from the commonwealth club of california in san francisco is about an hour and fifteen minutes. you can find us on the ine


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