Home | Lesson Plans    
Making Friends With Franklin

The Republic of Science
Introduction - Making Connections - The Republic of Science - Scientist and Statesman
A Bifocal View - Franklin the Friend - Enduring Legacy

The association with European scientists was not just symbolic. Soon after the Revolutionary War, Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote to a professor at Edinburgh that “the members of the republic of science all belong to the same family. What has physic [medicine] to do with taxation or independence?”

Franklin, too, believed that science transcended conflicts between nations. During the war he issued a “passport” for Captain Cook, the British explorer, who had set out on a voyage before the war began. He addressed a letter to all American ships, recommending that Cook’s ship not be seized, for “the increase of geographical knowledge facilitates the communication between distant nations . . . whereby the common enjoyments of human life are multiplied and augmented, and science of other kinds increased to the benefit of mankind in general.”

The “republic” also transcended class lines. The social backgrounds of American men of science ranged from the Boston Puritan establishment and the Southern planter aristocracy to that of Franklin himself.

  Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush was interested in earthquakes as a medical as well as a geological subject. He examined a geological subject. He examined them as a possible cause of disease.

Benjamin Rush, by Charles Willson Peale, 1783 and 1786. Winterthur Museum; gift of Mrs. Julia B. Henry, 1959.

Making Connections
Scientist and Statesman
Introduction | Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3 | Resources
About This Publication
Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies Home | Lesson Plans  
Questions and comments: