“Age is just a number!” It’s a hackneyed line that celebrities who are past their prime often spout on TV. Most of them, let me tell you, don’t know its essence. This post, however, is about a person who actually epitomized age-is-just-a-number.
Over the centuries, so many brilliant minds have walked this earth. But in my books, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is someone who I consider the greatest mind of the last 500 years. He towers above the rest because he never stopped inventing, even when he was in his 80s.
A normal person would have idled away his time after achieving so much fame, but not Benjamin Franklin.
Yes, he was a genius when he was young, but he was no less a phenomena in his old age either. It was as if his mental cognition compounded with his age even as his body weakened.
He continued to experiment in his 70s. He was making forays into advanced domains such as geophysics, weather, and evolution, which were certainly ahead of his time.
That said, his age was starting to pose some serious challenges to him. His physical shape was not getting any better. He was becoming frail. He had difficulty reaching out for objects. His eyesight was getting poorer. As a result, as much as he wanted, he was not getting enough done.
An ordinary mortel would have resigned to fate and accepted the frailities of old age as an inevitable natural occurence. Benjamin Franklin – a true master, had a different constitution though. Whenever he faced a daunting challenge in life, he invariably rushed to find a solution.
Following are some of Benjamin Franklin’s late age inventions that can inspire anyone:
#1. Mechanical Arm
Benjamin Franklin was an avid reader. His personal library was stacked from floor-to-ceiling. However, reaching the top shelves and selecting books from there was getting difficult for him. Climbing a ladder was also a risky proposition in his age.
To circumvent the problem, Franklin invented an extended mechanical arm to take down books from top shelves. He called it long arm.
In order to read, write and experiment without any hassles, Franklin invented bifocals – eyeglasses with two distinct optical powers.
In 1784, Franklin wrote to his optician and made a request: take both his long distance glasses and his reading glasses, slice their lenses in half and then stick the lenses together with the reading lenses on the bottom and the long distance glasses on the top.
Franklin would be able to avoid the hassle of switching glasses while he moved between reading and walking about.
Like Franklin, many avid readers succumb to hyperopia and myopia long before they lose an interest in books and knowledge. By solving his own inconvenience, Franklin helped billions of people to lead happier, fuller lives even as their vision fades with time.
#3. Rolling Press
In his late 70s, he invented a rolling press so that he could create copies of his own writings and documents, without having to step out of home.
It is said that his rolling press beat other machines of the day in efficiency. Franklin’s invention produce accurate copy of a document in less than 2 minutes.
It involved writing on paper with a gooey ink over which he sprinkled a powder of fine sand. He ran this sheet through a rolling press, made a negative impression on a copper plate, and used that plate to produce duplicates.
It is interesting to speculate what depths of understanding Benjamin Franklin could have reached had he lived longer.
Clearly, he was a man who never stopped inventing.