benjamin franklin

Essays

The Founding Fathers v. The Climate Change Skeptics

The Founding Fathers v. The Climate Change Skeptics

When claims from Europe accused British America of being inferior on account of its colder weather, Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Founding Fathers responded with patriotic zeal that their settlement was actually causing the climate to warm. Raphael Calel explores how, in contrast to today's common association of the U.S. with climate change skepticism, it was a very different story in the 18th century. more

Flash Mob: Revolution, Lightning, and the People's Will

Flash Mob: Revolution, Lightning, and the People's Will

Kevin Duong explores how leading French revolutionaries, in need of an image to represent the all important "will of the people", turned to the thunderbolt — a natural symbol of power and illumination that also signalled the scientific ideals so key to their project. more

Mesmerising Science: The Franklin Commission and the Modern Clinical Trial

Mesmerising Science: The Franklin Commission and the Modern Clinical Trial

Benjamin Franklin, magnetic trees, and erotically-charged séances — Urte Laukaityte on how a craze for sessions of "animal magnetism" in late 18th-century Paris led to the randomised placebo-controlled and double-blind clinical trials we know and love today. more

Mermaids and Tritons in the Age of Reason

Mermaids and Tritons in the Age of Reason

For much of the eighteenth century, Western intellectuals chased after tritons and mermaids. Vaughn Scribner follows the hunt, revealing how humanity’s supposed aquatic ancestors became wondrous screens on which to project theories of geographical, racial, and taxonomical difference. more