Books For Kids — Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words

by K.M. Koystal and Benjamin Franklin, Illustrated by Fred Harper

Discover history through the eyes of one of the smartest, funniest, and coolest figures from America’s past. Ben gives sage advice on everything from good citizenship, manners,  friendship, and being happy. 

Ben Franklin & the Magic Squares

By Frank Murphy, Illustrated by Richard Walz

A funny, entertaining introduction to Ben Franklin and his many inventions, including the story of how he created the “magic square.” A magic square is a box of nine numbers. They are arranged so that any line of three adds up to the same number, even on the diagonal. 

What’s the Big Idea Ben Franklin

By Jean Fritz, Illustrated by Margaret Tomes

A fun historic tale by Newbery Honor-winning author, Jean Fritz! No matter how busy he was, Ben Franklin always found time to try out new ideas. A man of many talents, he was an ambassador, a printer, an almanac maker, a politician, and even a vegetarian (for a time.)

When I Grow Up: Benjamin Franklin

By Annmarie Anderson, Illustrated by Gerald Kelley

Benjamin Franklin is one of America’s most beloved Founding Fathers and a man of many talents. He is most well-known for discovering electricity. But he was also an author, and editor, a printer, and a diplomat. And he invented many things we still use today. This book takes the reader on an exciting journey from Ben’s childhood to his adulthood as a famous American.

Who Was Ben Franklin

By Dennis Brindell Fradin, Illustrated by John O’Brien

Ben Franklin was the scientist who, with the help of a kite, discovered that lightning is electricity. He was also a statesman, an inventor, a printer, and an an author. He was a man of such amazingly varied talents that some people claimed he had magical powers. 

Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin

By Gene Barretta

What would you do if you lived in a community without a library, hospital, post office, or fire department? If you were Ben Franklin, you’d set these up yourself. Franklin also designed the lightning rod. He suggested the idea of daylight savings time. And he invented bifocals. All were inspired by his common sense and intelligence. 

Benjamin Franklin (Giants of Science)

By Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Benjamin Franklin was a famous inventor and multitasker. He’s best remembered as one of America’s Founding Fathers. But he was also a scientist. And his experiments led to important discoveries about the nature of electricity. He famously demonstrated that electricity and lightning are one in the same. 

John, Paul, George & Ben

By Lane Smith

Once there were four lads…John [Hancock], Paul [Revere], George [Washington], and Ben [Franklin]. Oh yes, there was also Tom [Jefferson], but he was annoyingly independent and hardly ever around. These lads were always getting into trouble for one reason or another. In other words, they took a few…liberties. And to be honest, they were not always appreciated. This is the story of five little lads before they became five really big Founding Fathers.

You may also like: Ben Franklin Invented Swim Fins at https://www.barbaralowell.com/ben-franklin-invented-swim-fins

Ben Franklin Runs Away

https://www.barbaralowell.com/ben-franklin-runs-away

The book descriptions used are primarily from the publishers.

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Ada Lovelace — First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace is considered to be the world’s first computer programmer.

Ada was born in England on December 10, 1815, the daughter of the famous and reckless poet Lord Byron. Soon after she was born, her parent’s marriage ended. Ada never saw her father again.

Her mother, Anne Isabella Milbanke had a great interest  in mathematics. Byron called her the Princess of Parallelograms. Anne Isabella steered her daughter away from poetry and into mathematics and science.

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Ada’s mother discouraged her imagination fearing that she might end up like her father. But Ada had a wonderful imagination. She decided that she would learn how to fly by studying birds’ anatomy. Ada made a set of wings. She wrote and illustrated her own book called Flyology and designed a flying mechanical horse.

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In 1829, Ada became temporarily paralyzed after having measles. She improved her math and science skills while bedridden. At age sixteen, restored to health, Ada was introduced to English society. She met famous scientists and became friends with the engineer Charles Babbage.

Babbage invented a machine called the Difference Engine. It worked like a giant calculator. He then designed a more complex machine he called the Analytical Engine. Babbage thought that the Analytical Engine would solve difficult mathematical calculations. The machine would then store these calculations. And it would also print them.

The Analytical Engine

Ada translated an article written about the Analytical Engine into English. She added her own notes. These notes contained an algorithm that would allow the machine to work. Ada’s algorithm is considered to be the first computer program.

The Analytical Engine was too expensive to build. But it is considered to be the first computer. And Charles Babbage is acknowledged as the “father of the computer.”

Charles Babbage designed his Analytical Engine to be capable of working with numbers. But Ada thought the machine had much greater possibilities. She envisioned it producing music, art, and writing, like modern computers.

Sadly, Ada died at age 36. Although she never met her father, she requested to be buried next to his grave in England.

To Learn More About Babbage’s Engines, Visit: http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/engines/

Books For Kids About Ada Lovelace:

Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace,

the World’s First Computer Programmer

by Fiona Robinson

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

by Laurie Wallmark, Illustrated by April Chu

Ada Lovelace Poet of Science

by Diane Stanley, Illustrated by Jessie Hartland

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Jane Goodall

As a young child, Jane Goodall was given a toy chimpanzee. She named him Jubilee. When Jane was eight years old, she read The Story of Dr. Doolittle and the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. She dreamed of living in Africa. “I was absolutely fascinated with the idea of being out in the jungle, out with the animals, being a part of it all,” she said later.

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On July 14, 1960, Jane’s dream came true. Famed paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey found in Jane a patient, determined young woman, with the right qualities necessary to study the behavior of chimpanzees in the wild. Jane traveled to the Gombe Stream Game Reserve in Tanzania (then Tanganyika) to record her observations not knowing that her research would be groundbreaking. 

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At first, Jane was unable to find chimpanzees, or was only aware that they were in the jungle near her. Once she found a high peak that overlooked two valleys, Jane was able to follow the daily interactions and behavior of the chimps through her binoculars. They were aware of her presence and over time expected that she would be there watching them. Through Louis Leakey’s insistence, a filmmaker captured Jane and her observations.

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Jane learned that chimps are nomadic in nature, searching over two to six miles a day for food. She learned that mothers and young chimps stay together and that males are not part of child raising. And she watched the chimps spend part of their day resting and grooming each other. 

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When a small group of chimps let Jane come near them, it was the “proudest and most exciting moment of my life,” she said. Jane named the matriarch of the group, Flo. She observed Flo’s infant, Flint, as he grew and his sister Fifi’s intense interest in him. Fifi often tried to imitate Flo’s gentle mothering. Jane learned that young chimps are deeply curious about the world around them and are intrigued by baby chimps.

Jane told her staff to signal her if a chimp approached their camp. One day, a male, Jane had observed and named David Graybeard, entered the camp. He grabbed a stalk of bananas from a tent. When Jane was told, she returned and photographed David eating the bananas.  He entered the camp again, and in time other chimps followed. Jane, it seemed, was no longer a perceived threat. 

Jane Goodall grooms the coat of a chimpanzee as he eats a banana in this photo from 1974.
Jane Goodall grooms the coat of a chimpanzee as he eats a banana in this photo from 1974. National Geographic Photo

Jane’s most amazing discovery was that chimps make and use tools. The chimps in the groups Jane studied over three generations, used stalks of grass to dip into holes in the earth to capture termites. They modified these tools by breaking off the ends of the stalks when they became less effective.

Twigs were used as similar tools after their leaves were removed. The chimps also made sponges by wadding up leaves. They dipped the sponges into tree holes that had collected rainwater and then drank from the sponges. Jane also learned that chimps were not solely plant eaters. They hunted and ate mammals, including baboons, bush pigs, antelope, and monkeys. And Jane observed aggression in chimps, which made them seem even more like humans to her.

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Jane Goodall lectures around the world stressing the importance of  “creating a balance between humans and the natural world.”   She established the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots and Shoots, a program for children. Visit these programs at: https://www.janegoodall.org

 

“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” – Jane Goodall

Books To Share With Kids:

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Me…Jane

by Patrick McDonnell

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The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With The Chimps

by Jeanette Winter

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Who Is Jane Goodall

by Roberta Edwards, Illustrated by John O’Brien

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Books For Kids — Scientists!

Maria’s Comet

by Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by Deborah Lanino

Maria longs to be an astronomer. She imagines all the strange worlds she can travel to by looking through her papa’s telescope. One night Maria gets her chance. For the first time, she sees the night sky stretching endlessly above her. Her dream of exploring constellations seems close enough to touch. This story is inspired by the life of Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer.

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On A Beam Of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

by Jennifer Berne

Travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. This is a moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

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The Librarian Who Measured The Earth

by Kathryn Lasky

This is a colorfully illustrated biography of the Greek philosopher and scientist Eratosthenes. He compiled the first geography book. And accurately measured the globe’s circumference.

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Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries

by Don Brown

Before the word “dinosaur” was ever coined, a young girl discovered a remarkable skeleton on the rocky beach at Lyme Regis in England. This discovery became her passion. She became one of the first commercial fossil collectors. Born in 1799, Mary Anning spent a lifetime teaching herself about fossils. She combed the rugged shore near her home and found a treasure trove of fossils. These long-extinct creatures excited early paleontologists.

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Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Young Carl Sagan went to the 1939 World’s Fair. His life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe. He sought to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from his Brooklyn apartment. Through his love of science fiction novels. To his work as an renowned scientist. Carl worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space.

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Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

by Claire Nivola

Sylvia Earle first lost her heart to the ocean as a young girl. She discovered the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico. As an adult, she dives even deeper. She designs submersibles, swims with whales, and takes deep-water walks. Sylvia has dedicated her life to learning more about what she calls “the blue heart of the planet.”

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Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved the Mystery That Baffled All of France

by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wears a fancy coat of purple silk. He carries an iron wand. And he convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force. It can cure illness and thoughts. But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical scientific approach get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks?

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Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World

by Tracy Fern, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Barnum Brown’s parents named him after the circus icon P.T. Barnum. They hoped he would do something extraordinary. And he did! He worked as a paleontologist for the American Museum of Natural History. He discovered the first documented skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. And most of the dinosaurs on display there today.

The book descriptions used are primarily the publishers.

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Vivien Thomas Saved “Blue Babies”

In Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, author Gwendolyn Hooks tells the story of how a former carpenter developed a life-saving medical procedure. The surgical technique allowed babies born with the condition tetralogy of Fallot, or blue baby syndrome, to live.

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Vivien Thomas

Vivien Thomas was born in 1910 into a segregated American south. He dreamed of a career in medicine. Vivien saved for college working alongside his carpenter father. But when the stock market crashed in 1929, he lost his savings.

Not giving up on his dream, he interviewed for a position at the Vanderbilt University Hospital. He would work with Dr. Alfred Blalock as a surgical research technician. Vivien was not told when hired that he would receive less pay than the white research technicians. His official classification was “janitor.”

Vivien quickly learned to conduct experiments independently. He became an indispensable assistant to Dr. Blalock. The doctor was then offered the Chief of Surgery position at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He accepted only if Vivien would be his research technician.

The move to Baltimore from Nashville was difficult for Vivien and his family. They met with increased segregation. They found it difficult to rent an apartment. In her book Gwendolyn Hooks writes: “Vivien refused to let the prejudice of others interfere with his work.”

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Drs. Blalock and Taussig

Dr. Helen Taussig, a pediatric cardiologist spoke to Dr. Blalock. She asked if he could devise a procedure for her young heart patients. This procedure would involve open-heart surgery. Dr. Blalock gave the assignment to Vivien.

Vivien studied the hearts of blue babies in a pathology museum. He noted the defects that prevented blue blood from entering the lungs for oxygenation. He decided that a procedure that he and Dr. Blalock had tried at Vanderbilt would be the answer.

A shunt would connect an artery from the heart with an artery going to the lungs. Vivien next made a small needle. It could be used on babies to suture the arteries. Then Vivien successfully performed the procedure on animals.

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Vivien Thomas Stands On A Stool Behind Dr. Blalock

The first procedure on a baby was conducted on November 29, 1944. Vivien stood on a stool behind Dr. Blalock directing the successful operation.

Over 150 times, he stood behind Dr. Blalock. He answered the doctor’s questions while the doctor performed the operation. The procedure became known as the Blalock-Taussig shunt.

The two physicians received national and international recognition. They were nominated for a Nobel prize. But Vivien Thomas’s name was never mentioned.

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Vivien Thomas’s Portrait At Johns Hopkins

It wasn’t until 1971, that Vivien Thomas was publicly recognized for his contribution to medical science. His portrait hangs in the Blalock Building at Johns Hopkins. Directly across the hall is Dr. Blalock’s portrait. Johns Hopkins University honored Vivien Thomas with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1976.

With author Gwendolyn Hooks’s book Tiny Stitches, children can read and learn about the dedicated medical researcher. He overcame racial prejudice to save the lives of “blue babies.” Visit Gwendolyn Hooks at: gwendolynhooks.com

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Vivien Thomas

To learn more, visit Johns Hopkins at: http://www.medicalarchives.jhmi.edu/vthomas.htm

Jason Wright, a future Ken Burns, narrates this wonderful video.

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Carl Sagan, The Boy Who Reached for the Stars

Young Carl Sagan looked up at the night sky and wondered, “What are stars?”  A question he seemed to ask over and over.

His mother took him to the library for the answer. At first, the librarian misunderstood Carl and gave him a book about the stars in Hollywood. But when he finally had the right book in his hands, it was magic. Carl learned that our Sun is a star. And all stars are suns, but they are so far away that they look like little points of light.

Carl searched the night sky for the planets in our solar system. He wished that he could walk on the surface of Mars, like his hero, John Carter, in the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. And Carl wondered: did life exist outside our solar system?  In our galaxy? In other galaxies?

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Mars, the red planet

When Carl was four years old, his parents took him to the 1939 New York World’s Fair, not far from his Bensonhurst, Brooklyn home. There Carl saw wonders of the future: a mechanical man, a moving map, and even an early television. The possibilities for science and technology seemed endless to him.

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The interior of an early television at the 1939 World’s Fair

When Carl grew up, he never stopped asking questions about space and its mysteries.  He became a scientist, with a PhD. in astronomy and astrophysics. He participated in the Voyager program that sent two unmanned spacecrafts on a journey to distant parts of our solar system. Voyager I and Voyager II sent back pictures and information to Earth that helped us learn more about the planets in our solar system.

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Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan taught us about space with his many books and his PBS television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. He told us that, “The total number of stars in the Universe is larger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.” This vastness inspired Carl’s curiosity as a child about planets and stars and galaxies that he later shared with all of us. 

An exceptional book for children: Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson tells the story of Carl Sagan full of curiosity and wonder who reached for the stars.

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Galileo vs. Aristotle

Galileo Galilei, lived in Pisa home of the tall leaning tower — just right for an experiment challenging Greek philosopher Aristotle.

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View of Pisa from the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Aristotle said that a heavier object falling from the same height, at the same time, would travel faster than a lighter object. Galileo disagreed. He said both objects would reach the ground about the same time.

It is said that at the top of the tower, Galileo dropped two spherical objects, one heavier than the other, perhaps a cannonball and a musketball. Both hit the ground at about the same time, disproving Aristotle’s law of gravity. Whether this actually occurred, or it was instead a thought experiment, Galileo wrote about it in his book, On Motion.

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

In Pisa, disproving Aristotle did not win fans for Galileo, and he was no longer asked to teach at the university there. But he wasn’t done challenging Aristotle. This time the challenge took place in the sky above.

The Dutch invented a telescope that made faraway objects appear closer. Galileo knew he could improve the Dutch telescope. When he did, he discovered that he could see the actual surface of the moon. It was not at all as Aristotle described it — completely smooth. Instead, the surface had peaks and valleys.

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Galileo and his telescope

With his telescope, he also discovered the largest of Jupiter’s four moons. He published his discoveries in his book, Starry Messenger. Europeans learned about Earth’s moon and Jupiter’s moons, and Galileo became famous. He was invited by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to live in Florence and spend his days searching the sky for new discoveries.

What he discovered, again challenged Aristotle. Aristotle said that our solar system was Earth centered. The sun and other planets revolved around the Earth.

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What Galileo observed through his telescope made him realize that Aristotle was wrong. The sun was at the center of our solar system and the earth, like the other planets, revolved around the it.

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Unfortunately, disputing Aristotle again won him no fans. And finally landed him under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

But — later scientists proved that he was right, this sun is the center of our solar system.  

When I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I was amazed that I had no sensation of leaning once inside the tower. Even at the top, it felt as if the tower stood perfectly straight.

Books For Kids:

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I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen

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 Starry Messenger by Peter Sis

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