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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Effects of overeducation on Benjamin Franklin

FROM The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel J. Boorstin

When first doing his electricity experiments, Benjamin Franklin was apparently unaware of what European scientists had attempted in this area. He thus didn't know whether his discoveries were in fact nothing more than rediscoveries of what was already known on the continent. Franklin started to read European books on electricity which had been sent to the Library Company of Philadelphia. Boorstin writes that "The more perceptive European scientists themselves feared that if Franklin acquired their learning he would soon see no more than they did (p. 255)." As Boorstin recounts, eventually that is exactly what happened; Franklin's writings more and more reflected what he gleaned from European books.

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