Ben Franklin was a real American. Perhaps the first alive American spirit we come across in so many ways. I was lucky to live in Philadelphia right where he lived, in the old city. I walked past his jaunts every day — the Independence Hall, the mutual contributorship against fire, the philosophical society (the Junto).

Although we know Ben as an old guy, on the $100 bill and the iconic portraits, he was a dashing, tall young man. His future wife Deborah Read saw him disembarking and laughed. He waited a long time to marry her, angling for a dowry from richer brides and decamping to London in between. He left her and their daughter along for years, setting up a mirror substitute family in London, with a mother and daughter, Polly. Polly was intellectual and flirtatious. She asked Franklin whether she should marry or continue their conversations. Franklin told her to do both. She was at his bedside when he died.

Franklin retired at 42, selling his printing business to his partner David Hall with the condition of getting a $650/year rent for 18 years. He bought time and started his scientific pursuits, becoming a world-renown Dr Franklin (honorary degree from Oxford and elsewhere).