Inventions by Ben Franklin

Bifocal Glasses

  • Franklin, who had poor vision but loved to read, became frustrated by constantly having to put on and take off his glasses. To remedy the inconvenience, Franklin invented glasses that combined the two lenses.



Flexible Urinary Catheter



  • John, Franklin's elder brother, suffered from kidney stones. Though not deeply involved in studies of biology, Franklin sought a way to alleviate John's pain, which resulted in the invention of the first urinary catheter in the U.S.

Franklin Stove

  • Initially, Franklin wanted to improve upon the extant stove by creating one that used less wood but would create more heat. Although he successfully created a new stove and marketed it as the "Pennsylvania Fireplace," an inventor later modified Franklin's design to maximize efficiency, and named the modified version the Franklin Stove.

Glass Armonica

  • After viewing a musical performance played on upright wine goblets, Franklin was inspired to invent the glass armonica, which contained glasses of different diameters within a standing trough of water.

Library Chair

  • Franklin's love of reading often him lead him to invention. In this instance, Franklin's desire to maximize his comfort while reading in his chair lead him to add various attachments. These attachments, such as a foot-powered fan and reversible seat, permitted the library chair to perform multiple functions.

Lightning Rod

  • Franklin's lightning rod, another well-known invention, protected Colonial homes (and homes today as well) from destruction by lightning bolt. The lightning rod would send the electricity of the lightning bolt straight to the ground, thereby rendering it harmless.


  • Franklin, who organized the first mail delivery system in the U.S., needed a standard way to measure the distance between destinations. To do so, he invented the odometer, which calculated the number of wheel rotations of a given carriage.

Swim Fins

  • Ever the outdoorsman, Franklin wanted to increase his swimming speed. By attaching makeshift "fins" shaped like lily pads to his hands, he found that he was able to increase his speed in the water.


In the course of his studies of electricity, Franklin found that the English language did not yet contain the words to describe the phenomena he observed. He coined words pertaining to studies of electricity and conductivity still used today; among them are battery, charge, condenser, conductor, plus, minus, positively, negatively and armature.