Bifocals, the catheter, the lightning rod, the odometer, the mechanical armonica, swim fins: all of these sprang from the mind of Benjamin Franklin. So did the United States’s first academy, hospital, and library, respectively. When he wasn’t occupied with the founding of our country, Franklin was a prolific scientific and social innovator, an embodiment of the productive power of imagination. After all, where do new devices, techniques, and ways of living originate if not in our heads, our imaginations?
Author and illustrator Maira Kalman celebrates Franklin’s life as an inventor in “Can Do,” a recent installment in her monthly graphic Op-Extra blog column for the New York Times. With bright, colorful, elegantly cartoonish illustrations and deadpan New York humor, Kalman provides a hit-and-run history of Franklin’s career and, ultimately, links his imaginative ethos to the American spirit (“Don’t mope in your room. Go invent something”). Of particular interest to me is the great man’s daily goal chart; what does his rigidly structured day suggest about setting aside time for imaginative thinking?
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