Benjamin Franklin often had the ability to think decades, and sometimes a century, ahead of others. For instance, he founded in 1727 a business discussion group, called “The Junto” in Philadelphia to discuss business topics of common interest. We have a list of topics he proposed, one of which was “Should businesses provide insurance to employees.” (He actually referred to them as “servants”.)
We don’t have the minutes of that discussion but we know that nothing, at the time came of it. Why?
Franklin Over 80 Years In Advance Of First Work Comp Law
Franklin was thinking far ahead of the medical treatment and vocational help that was available. In fact, he was over 80 years in advance of the first workers’ compensation law (Sweden, 1810). A compensation law, in Franklin’s time, would have been unable to provide much more than primitive setting of a fracture, and not much else. Medical treatment would have included leeches and a wide variety of herbs and chemicals of no use whatsoever. Furthermore, all labor was heavy and any injury would have been total unless it healed itself pretty quickly. Franklin’s head was in the right place, but state of the art science was not.
Franklin was 21 when he created the junto and made the insurance proposal.
The fact that modern disability insurance laws did not become possible until the 1880s was due to modern surgery and sterile procedure appearing at that time which made it possible to survive serious injury. In the United States, the appearance of X-rays in the years just prior to World War I made the treatment of serious fractures far more effective, as did the appearance of modern pharmaceuticals. (Aspirin was the single greatest advance in the management of pain in history.) In the first years of workers’ compensation in the United States, fractures were about the only conditions covered.
The Modern Prometheus
But Franklin wasn’t through with contributions to speculative medical advances. His work on electricity in the 1750s (the kite experiment) led the scientist/philosopher Emmanuel Kant to call him “the modern Prometheus” (Prometheus stole fire from the Gods – lightning – to help mankind.) And Mary Shelley, in 1817, stated in a literary preface that her story was not fiction and might very well become reality in the near future. That was the preface to “Frankenstein”, and the title was no accident. Victor Frankenstein was also called “the modern Prometheus”.
Franklin also anticipated the paddles that presently are used for cardiac resuscitation.
Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, NY. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100. firstname.lastname@example.org
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