In addition to being a renowned statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of our country, Benjamin Franklin was also a scientist and inventor, being credited with inventing bifocals, the lightening rod, the flexible urinary catheter, and swim fins, among many other discoveries. Although he was not overfond of the Bald Eagle (he considered it a “Bird of bad moral Character”), one thing Franklin did not do was propose that the turkey be our national bird. He only felt the turkey to be a “much more respectable Bird, and . . . a Bird of Courage.”
On this day, in 1940, the Luftwaffe began an aerial bombing campaign against the United Kingdom, in what has become known as the “Battle of Britain.” The British ultimately prevailed, with 544 aircrew killed, 422 aircrew wounded, and 1,547 aircraft destroyed, while the Luftwaffe lost 2,698 aircrew and 1,887 aircraft. Britain’s victory prevented Germany from achieving air superiority and stopped Hitler from launching Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious and airborne assault of Britain. Part of the credit goes to Sir Robert Alexander Watson Watt, who received a patent in Britain in 1935, GB593017, “Improvements in or Relating to Wireless Systems,” for a radar to detect aircraft. His work became the basis of the Chain Home ring of coastal early warning radar stations, which was instrumental in helping detect the approach of Luftwaffe aircraft.
Here in the States, the Fourth of July is celebrated as Independence Day, to commemorate the signing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration, which was then edited and finalized by the Second Continental Congress. Jefferson later went on to help draft our first Patent Act in 1790 and to accomplish a great many other things.