Benjamin Franklin’s Contribution to Modern Ophthalmology

Revised and Updated by Seth Preston on: September 26, 2019

Many remember Benjamin Franklin as a founding father, a noted wit, and the face of the 100 dollar bill. But, he was also a founding father of ophthalmic beginnings with convex lens study.

What people often overlook is the fact that he was a celebrated writer and inventor. Poor Richard’s Almanack, in addition to the amalgam of letters and quotes that came from one of America’s early brilliant minds, were the noted works of Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin was known as a very divisive character. His peers often saw him as an untrustworthy individual, always prioritizing capital gain. His pragmatic viewpoints often created strife when the framers of the Constitution were brought together.

A master of the quill, Franklin was an effective writer. This skill set would assist him throughout his robust career. While writing, he also inspired inventions and institutions that would serve the public. For example, he implemented institutions that would fight fires within city infrastructure.

One invention Benjamin Franklin devised is still used today.
Image of Spectacles

“He informed me that he had worn spectacles for 50 years. He had them on and as they appeared to be differently constructed from any I had seen the circumstance led to some inquiry – each eye appeared to be formed of two pieces of glass divided horizontally – he informed me that he had always worn such – the upper part was to view distant objects, the lower to read with. ….”

This correspondence penned by John Fenno, editor of the Gazette of the United States, regaled his wife about the time he saw Ben Franklin’s spectacles.  That’s just the kind of brilliance that came from one of the greatest minds in our country’s history. The bifocal was invented by Franklin, through sheer determination and adaptability to solve a common problem, and continues to be used today.

Photo of glasses resting on a book

Those who need a convex lens to read have a founding father to thank! This, alongside his other accomplishments, solidifies Ben Franklin as a predominant figure in our country’s history.