Benjamin Franklin Statesman and Apothecary

Contributed by Blanche Ndifon, Class of 2019

Many people know Benjamin Franklin as one the founding fathers of the United States who helped write the most powerful document known in this country, the Declaration of Independence, but if asked, very few people will know a thing about his medical and science interests or of any contributions he made in the profession of pharmacy.  It is very well established in the books of history what a great politician Benjamin Franklin was, but his influences as a health care professional and activist usually go unstated.

franklinOn January 17 of 1706, Benjamin Franklin was born in Massachusetts Bay Colony, what is known today as Boston. He was the last of fifteenth children born to his father (Josiah Franklin) and the fifth child born to mother Abiah Folger (Says, 19). He was a very brilliant child but, at the early age of ten years old, he had to become a full-time worker at his father’s candle and soap shop. At age twelve, he was an apprentice to his brother at a printer shop, where he developed an immense passion for reading, writing and publishing despite his brother’s religious efforts to repress Franklin’s love for publishing.  Escaping from Boston, Franklin went to live in Philadelphia. He then went on to publish his first pamphlet, “A Dissertation upon Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain,”(Author name, 2015 reference1). From his numerous publications, writing of everything from politics, weather forecast, and poetry to proverbs, he become a very prominent man and got several honorary degrees from Yale, Harvard and other international institutions. He rose so fast in the world of politics that in the year 1976, he was one of only five men appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence.

Benjamin Franklin also had a rooted interest in health. Knowing Benjamin’s love for science and community service, his good friend Dr Thomas Bond approached him with the idea of starting what will be the first Hospital and hospital pharmacy (then called apothecary) so that the colonies will not have to rely on British physicians and apothecaries (Penn Medicine, 2012 ).  Franklin bough into the idea almost instantly and began writing the petitions that will make sure that was possible. He nullified resistance from the Assembly appointed to handle the subject by accepting to raise part of the money to start and the assembly would have to match what he raised dollar for dollar. With his restless efforts, enough money was raised to begin the project. In the year 1952, the first hospital pharmacy was founded where Jonathan Roberts was appointed the first apothecary (Oldfield, 2014). Although medicine and pharmacy were   commonly practiced together back then, the establishing of a hospital apothecary helped made the distinction between the two professions and allowed for pharmacy to develop in its own right separately from medicine. Today the pharmacy is practiced independently of the medical profession with Pharmacists having defined responsibilities in patient welfare. Due to the input of a well respected man like Benjamin Franklin, today over 90% of the hospitals in the United States have inpatient pharmacies employing about a fifth of all pharmacists (Penn Medicine, 2012).

Franklin’s first son died at the age of four from smallpox and for this reason he was very big supporter of vaccinations and today vaccination is something that can be done by a pharmacist. Evidently his impact in the profession is still very much appreciated today.



  1. Benjamin Franklin: A Founding Father of Pharmacy. (2015, May 14). Retrieved September 26, 2016, from
  1. Pennsylvania Hospital History: Stories – Nation’s First Hospital. (2012, August 02). Retrieved September 26, 2016, from
  1. Says, T. R., & Says, A. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved September 26, 2016, from







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