In 1968 Ben Franklin was inducted as an honorary member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He invented flippers when he was 11 years old!
Long before he discovered electricity and helped win independence from the British Empire, Benjamin Franklin was an avid swimmer. He swam from a very young age and throughout his life consistently promoted swimming for its healthful benefits. In fact, in what would be the first of many revolutionary inventions and discoveries, Franklin invented the first swim fin at 11 years old. Unlike today’s flippers worn on the feet, however, Franklin’s were attached to the hands. In March 1773, Franklin wrote about his invention: “When a youth, I made two oval pallets, each about ten inches long, and six broad, with a hole for the thumb, in order to retain it fast in the palm of my hand. They much resembled a painter’s pallets. In swimming I pushed the edges of these forward, and I struck the water with their flat surfaces as I drew them back. I remember I swam faster by means of these pallets, but they fatigued my wrists. I also fitted to the soles of my feet a kind of sandals, but I was not satisfied with them, because I observed that the stroke is partly given by the inside of the feet and the ankles, and not entirely with the soles of the feet.” Centuries later, modern hand fins or paddles were created for paddle boarding and body surfing. In 1968, Benjamin Franklin was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport of swimming.