Social contributions and studies by Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin made many social contributions both through his studies and by founding various institutions.

Population studies

In the 1730s and 1740s he began taking notes on population growth, finding that the American population had the fastest growth rates on earth.[1] Emphasizing that population growth depended on food supplies—a line of thought later developed by Thomas Malthus—Franklin emphasized the abundance of food and available farmland in America. He calculated that America's population was doubling every twenty years and would surpass that of England in a century.[2] In 1751, he drafted "Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c." Four years later, it was anonymously printed in Boston, and it was quickly reproduced in Britain, where it influenced economists Adam Smith and later Thomas Malthus. Franklin's predictions also alarmed British leaders who did not want to be surpassed by the colonies, so they became more willing to impose restrictions on the colonial economy.[3]

Economics and mercantilism

Benjamin Franklin, in his capacity as a farmer, wrote at least one critique about the negative consequences of price controls, trade restrictions and subsidy of the poor. This is succinctly preserved in his letter to the London Chronicle published November 29, 1766 titled 'On the Price of Corn, and Management of the poor'.[4]

Franklin's "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc." influenced economist Adam Smith. His essay theorized how British mercantilism was unsustainable, and it was a response to the British Parliament's prohibition of the construction of ironworks in America brought about by the demands of British manufacturers.[5]


Benjamin Franklin formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania.[6]


  1. J. A. Leo Lemay (2008). The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 3: Soldier, Scientist, and Politician, 1748-1757. U. of Pennsylvania Press. p. 245. 
  2. Isaacson 2003, p. p 150
  3. Alfred Owen Aldridge, "Franklin as Demographer," Journal of Economic History (1949) 9#1 pp. 25-44 in JSTOR
  4. "The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume III: London, 1757 - 1775 - On the Price of Corn, and Management of the Poor". Retrieved 2011-12-11. 
  5. Brands, H. W. (2000)"The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin" First Anchor Books Edition, March 2002. ISBN 0-385-49540-4.
  6. "A Quick Biography of Benjamin Franklin". Retrieved 25 April 2012.