Benjamin Franklin Once Wrote an Essay on Farting, His Reason is Relatable

Benjamin Franklin Once Wrote an Essay on Farting, His Reason is Relatable

In 1781, Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, penned an essay that displayed his signature blend of wit and wisdom on a topic that might seem trivial at first: flatulence. Franklin’s essay, humorously titled “Fart Proudly,” was written in response to a call for scientific papers by the Royal Academy of Brussels. Instead of a serious scientific discourse, he chose to tackle the subject of human flatulence, injecting a healthy dose of satire to critique the pretentiousness he perceived in the academic and scientific elite of his time.

The essay opens with Franklin’s mock-serious proposal to the Academy, suggesting that they turn their attention to improving the odor of human flatulence for the betterment of society. He argued that if scientists could invent a drug that would render flatulence not only inoffensive but as agreeable as perfumes, it would be a boon to humanity. This, he claimed, would improve the comfort and well-being of all people, making it acceptable to break wind publicly without embarrassment or offense.

Franklin’s tongue-in-cheek suggestions included adjusting one’s diet to alter the scent of bodily emissions, as well as the potential use of chemistry to make one’s flatulence smell pleasant. He cited the example of asparagus, which alters the scent of urine, to support his argument that it might be similarly possible to transform the scent of flatulence.

The essay is rich with Franklin’s dry humor and serves as a critique of both the era’s scientific inquiries and the society that overly revered them. He used the essay to challenge the norms of scientific discourse, emphasizing that not all scientific inquiries need to be of serious nature to be of value.

Despite its humorous overtone, Franklin’s essay on flatulence was a clever satire addressing larger themes of scientific endeavor and societal norms. It has been appreciated in modern times for its wit and the light it sheds on the personality of one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers.

While the essay was never actually submitted to the Royal Academy, it was widely circulated among Franklin’s friends and has since been celebrated for its humor and its insight into Franklin’s character as a thinker who could find the lighter side of any subject, no matter how indelicate.