Science Wednesday: Meeting Ben Franklin

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By Marguerite Huber

A few weeks ago, my to-do list contained two items: (1) go to Philadelphia, and (2) meet Ben Franklin. Check and Check!

I attended the Philadelphia Science Festival’s satellite event “The Science of Being Green: From 18th Century to the Future,” where EPA’s own “father of green chemistry,” Assistant Administrator Paul T. Anastas joined Benjamin Franklin (portrayed by Ralph Archbold) to talk about the importance of science and innovation. The EPA, the National Park Service and the Postal Service co-hosted the event, which took place just feet from historic Independence Hall, home of the Liberty Bell.

I had never been to Philadelphia, let alone met Benjamin Franklin, so the whole experience was exciting. There were EPA scientists demonstrating the wonders of science through numerous hands-on demonstrations, such as explaining about energy by lighting a light bulb with a citrus fruit, and about pressure by displaying how capped bottles of water punctured with holes do not leak (which definitely caught my attention).

On a stage with a patriotic backdrop, Paul Anastas and Benjamin Franklin talked to an engaged audience of many ages. The sky that day was a perfect blue, and both Franklin and Anastas explained how that was because of the EPA’s regulations: making the air we breathe and water we drink safer. They talked of the differences in science and innovation between Franklin’s time and ours, and how it was up to the younger members of the audience to take up science careers and answer the sustainability challenges of the future.

At the end of their conversation, EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin, Philadelphia Postmaster Joseph Kinney, and BJ Dunn from Independence National Historic Park, all came on stage to reveal the Postal Service’s new Go Green commemorative stamps, featuring  “drawings of simple low-cost actions everyone can take to conserve natural resources and promote the health of our environment.” The stamps are really neat and I am excited by the Postal Service’s efforts.

Overall, the day made me think about how far we have come as a nation and how far we still have to go. Maybe one of those kids I saw fascinated by the science experiments will be the next Benjamin Franklin—or Paul Anastas.

About the Author: Marguerite Huber was an intern with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She recently left EPA for graduation, and soon, graduate school.

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