The story of the renowned American polymath.

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »




Series cast summary:
...  Benjamin Franklin 3 episodes, 2002
...  Franklin as a young man 3 episodes, 2002
...  Narrator 3 episodes, 2002
Keith Arbour ...  Himself - Historian 3 episodes, 2002
...  Paul Wentworth 3 episodes, 2002
Joseph Becton ...  Himself - Park Ranger, Independence National Historical Park 3 episodes, 2002
Matthew Bentley ...  Benjamin as a child 3 episodes, 2002
Michael Bentley ...  Benjamin as a child 3 episodes, 2002
Carol Berkin ...  Herself - Baruch College 3 episodes, 2002
...  Jane Franklin Mecom 3 episodes, 2002
...  Silence Dogood 3 episodes, 2002
Anthony Cochrane ...  King George III 3 episodes, 2002
John Curless ...  William Strahan 3 episodes, 2002
Peter Donaldson ...  John Adams 3 episodes, 2002
...  Catherine Ray 3 episodes, 2002
...  Joseph Galloway 3 episodes, 2002
...  Joseph Priestley 3 episodes, 2002
...  Le Comte de Vergennes 3 episodes, 2002
...  Jonathan Austin 3 episodes, 2002
John Christopher Jones ...  Ephraim Eliot 3 episodes, 2002
...  Thomas Penn 3 episodes, 2002
Eddie Korbich ...  Jared Ruggles 3 episodes, 2002
Ralph Lerner ...  Himself - University of Chicago 3 episodes, 2002
Claude-Anne Lopez ...  Herself - The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Yale University 3 episodes, 2002
Pauline Maier ...  Herself - Massachusetts Institute of Technology 3 episodes, 2002
...  Deborah Read Franklin 3 episodes, 2002
...  Elkanah Watson 3 episodes, 2002
Edmund Morgan ...  Himself - Yale University 3 episodes, 2002
...  Robert Whittington 3 episodes, 2002
...  Vicomte 3 episodes, 2002
Natacha Roi ...  Mme. Brillon de Jouy 3 episodes, 2002
Andrew Seear ...  British Government Official 3 episodes, 2002
...  Cotton Mather 3 episodes, 2002
...  William Franklin 3 episodes, 2002
Michael Zuckerman ...  Himself - University of Pennsylvania 3 episodes, 2002
Ralph Archbold ...  Ben Franklin 2 episodes, 2002
H.W. Brands ...  Himself - Texas A & M University 2 episodes, 2002
Thomas Fleming ...  Himself - Author 2 episodes, 2002
Dudley Herschbach ...  Himself - Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Harvard University 2 episodes, 2002
Robert Middlekauff ...  Himself - University of California, Berkeley 2 episodes, 2002
Gordon S. Wood ...  Himself - Brown University 2 episodes, 2002


In American history, few people have cut a more impressive figure than Benjamin Franklin. Beginning with his successful journalism and publishing careers, Franklin began a life of extraordinary achievement and variety. This series covers the multifaceted man whose life included public service, diplomacy, science, inventing and political action that would help redefine a world. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (

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Release Date:

19 November 2002 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(3 episodes)


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Did You Know?


Franklin invented the US Postal Service. See more »

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User Reviews

Does it get any better?
25 January 2012 | by See all my reviews

It is not surprising that this biography of Ben Franklin received an Emmy Award as Outstanding Non-Fiction Special. After all, the show is a quality production throughout and has more than enough of the usual PBS polish and glitz to many anyone happy.

This documentary consists of narration, paintings and historical recreations. And, much of the narration is based on the actual writings of the various folks. So, while you often see an actor very ably play Franklin, you also see actors as his sons, friends, foreign acquaintances and the like. It tends to make the story a lot more real--like the real life folks are talking directly to us--as if we are confidants.

Content-wise, this is also an exceptional film. Being so long was important, as too often biographies of larger than life people are too short. This on allows a deeper exploration of the man and covers much of the same material in the masterful biography "The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin"--which would make for great reading AFTER you see this film. Wonderful and expertly made in every way--this is simply terrific.

By the way, the best part, to me, was in the second half when Franklin did a wonderfully witty dialog with 'Madame Gout'--as if his gout pains were alive and having a conversation with him. It's quite clever and made me laugh. I also appreciated the insight from the lady who explained why she thinks that Franklin never received as much acclaim as George Washington in this country--it made sense and made me think.

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