On behalf of Benjamin Franklin, welcome to our blog. I’m honored that I was selected to speak for our illustrious Founding Father—to provide our readers with the patriot’s outlook on today’s happenings. Our weekly offering will, we hope, both enlighten and amuse everyone who navigates to it, either on purpose or by accident.
Why, you might wonder, did Ben Franklin select me, a California orthopedic surgeon, as his spokesperson? Why didn’t he choose one of his 32,000 living descendants? Why hasn’t he picked as his mouthpiece a University of Pennsylvania professor, or an official of the Library Company of Philadelphia, or a member of The American Philosophical Society (all affiliated with institutions Franklin founded)? Why, for that matter, doesn’t he speak for himself?
Well, if these are your questions, you really should be asking how a dead guy could pick anyone to do anything! After all, Ben Franklin reportedly expired on April 17, 1790, after a long illness characterized by painful bladder stones, gout, and pneumonia.
So here’s the answer.
Not long ago, I wrote a book about Ben Franklin as a scientist and medical researcher. The book differs from other Franklin biographies because I directed it to the great man himself. Before Franklin died, you see, he wrote that flies drowned in wine could be revived by putting them out in the sun. Franklin proclaimed: “I should prefer to any ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira wine … then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country!”
In my book, I assumed that Franklin, near the end of his life and heavily medicated with opium, was immersed by his doctor in a barrel of Madeira and buried somewhere in Philadelphia to await future unearthing. Presuming that Franklin would spend his first few weeks after disencaskment at Pennsylvania Hospital, I prepared for him numerous emails updating his conjectures, inventions, and ideas. Thus evolved Dear Doctor Franklin: Emails to a Founding Father About Science, Medicine, and Technology.
At my book’s end, the barrel containing Franklin’s wine-soaked body isn’t found, so the claim that he’s entombed in Christ Church’s cemetery at the corner of Philadelphia’s Fifth and Arch Streets remains unchallenged. Nevertheless, since I cling to the possibility that Franklin actually carried out his Madeira scheme and will soon return, who’s better qualified to speak for him than his own pen pal? Indeed, I’m the only living person to have actually communicated with Dr. Benjamin Franklin: our discourse comprises 85 emails (admittedly all one-sided) tracing Franklin’s ideas and inventions from his time to our own.