Colonial Pennsylvania: A History

By Joseph E. Illick | Go to book overview

8
PRUNING: INDIAN AFFAIRS, POLITICS, AND QUAKER REFORMATION

In 1748 Benjamin Franklin took on "a very able, industrious, and honest partner, Mr. David Hall, with whose character I was well acquainted as he had worked for me four years." In a partnership that last eighteen years, Hall ran the business while Franklin planned to spend the rest of his life engaged in "philosophical studies and amusements," or so he recalled. "I proceeded in my electrical experiments with great alacrity; but the publick, now considering me as a man of leisure, laid hold of me for their purposes, every part of our civil government, and almost at the same time, imposing some duty on me." Franklin's recollection did justice to the pull of public affairs on his life but hardly to the importance of his work in science.

In the age of the Enlightenment great emphasis was placed on description and classification, since the discovery of external facts had to precede their orderly arrangement which in turn would yield the natural law underlying the facts. Natural history was therefore of tremendous interest in the Western world, and the novelty of the American environment compensated for the lack of libraries and other accouterments of accumulated learning to be found in Europe. There was an intellectually dynamic group of natural scientists who traded ideas and information across the Atlantic in the eighteenth century, and no colony matched Pennsylvania's vigor in the field. James Logan, with the largest colonial library of scientific titles, was internationally known as a

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