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Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay about farting in 1781 and his reason is truly chucklesome

In his essay, Benjamin Franklin requested experts to find a way to make the farts 'not only inoffensive but agreeable as perfumes.'

Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay about farting in 1781 and his reason is truly chucklesome
Cover Image Source: Engraved portrait of a younger Benjamin Franklin by HB Hall, 1868. From the New York Public Library. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

In 1780s, Benjamin Franklin, who was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, wrote an essay that showed he had perfectly mastered the art of sarcasm. The topic of the essay was important scientifically - flatulence, or as many call it, farting - but it came with a touch of humor. The reason why he chose the amusing topic was a question posed by the Royal Academy of Brussels, which was formed in 1772. In its early years, the academy organized several intellectual contests for which it devised questions and awarded medals. The questions were believed to be intellectually important, having a 'practical value.' However, in 1799, the academy presented one mathematical question which Benjamin Franklin found ridiculous. In response to it, he wrote the essay, which is famously known as "To the Royal Academy of Farting" or "Fart Proudly." 

Image Source: Engraved portrait of American politician, scientist, and philosopher Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790) - Getty Images | Stock Montage
Image Source: Engraved portrait of American politician, scientist, and philosopher Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790) - Getty Images | Stock Montage

Franklin started the essay by "humbly" requesting the academy to consider his proposal and if approved, then allow it to be seriously enquired by "learned physicians, chemists, & c. of this enlightened age." He wrote, "It is universally well known that in digesting our common food, there is created in the bowels of human creatures, a great quantity of wind." He added that usually it is considered "offensive" to let out the fart because of its smell.

Franklin went on to say that if it is not let out "contrary to nature" it could lead to "great present pain," future diseases such as habitual cholics, ruptures, tympanies, and "often destructive of the constitution, and sometimes of life itself." He claimed that if it were not for the "odiously offensive smell" people would have been in no restraint to let out "such wind in the company than they are in spitting, or in blowing their noses." 



 

So, Franklin asked the experts to find some drug that makes farts not smelly but fragrant-filled. "To discover some drug wholesome & not disagreeable, to be mixed with our common food, or sauces, that shall render the natural discharges of wind from our bodies, not only inoffensive but agreeable as perfumes," he wrote. 

He further addressed how eating certain types of food can help with the odor problem. He noted that it was possible to change the "smell of another discharge, that of our water." Benjamin mentioned that a few stems of asparagus "give our urine a disagreeable odor" and a pill of turpentine no bigger than a pea might make the urine odor "pleasing as violets." He further questioned that if it was possible to change the urine odor then why isn't it possible for the farts, "Why should it be thought more impossible in nature, to find means of making a perfume of our wind than of our water?" 

He then expressed that this comfort of farting without worrying is similar to witnessing a scientific discovery. "The pleasure arising to a few philosophers, from seeing, a few times in their life, the threads of light untwisted, and separated by the Newtonian prism into seven colors, can it be compared with the ease and comfort every man living might feel seven times a day, by discharging freely the wind from his bowels? Especially if it be converted into a perfume: For the pleasures of one sense being little inferior to those of another, instead of pleasing the sight he might delight the smell of those about him, and make numbers happy, which to a benevolent mind must afford infinite satisfaction." 

Franklin's tongue-in-cheek essay as never sent to the academy. According to Vox, though he drafted the letter as his reply to the Academy, it was only sent to his friends like the British chemist Joseph Priestley and philosopher Richard Price.

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