Benjamin Franklin and Future Science

Presentations in Adobe PDF format from a special history session

Held November 16, 2006, at the AVS 53rd International Symposium & Exhibition,

Moscone West Convention Center, San Francisco, California


To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth, AVS held a “Special Session for the Franklin Tercentenary (1706–2006): Franklin and the Future.”

Scientists and historians of science agree that Franklin was not only a founding father of the United States but a founding father of modern science. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1782 that “no one of the present age has made more important discoveries, nor has enriched philosophy with more, or more ingenious solutions of the phenomena of nature.”

By establishing that lightning is electrical and that electricity involves charge, Franklin simplified electrical theory and opened the way to new discoveries.
Those discoveries in due course led to the future-oriented science and technology presentations seen in San Francisco and now available below as PDF files. Also available is a write-up in layman’s language covering all of the presentations.

To begin the history session, a distinguished historian of science, Joyce Chaplin of Harvard University, set the context. Her book The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius had appeared earlier in 2006. She spoke on Benjamin Franklin’s Science—In Public and Private.

The session also included future-oriented presentations on:


The history session was conceived by Chief Technology Officer H.F. Dylla of Jefferson Lab and was organized and moderated by Theodore E. Madey, State of New Jersey Professor of Surface Science at Rutgers University, with considerable assistance from Steven T. Corneliussen, a Jefferson Lab science writer. It was sponsored by:

  • AVS Vacuum Technology Division
  • AVS History Committee
  • Center for the History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics