Benjamin Franklin, the elder statesman of the Constitutional Convention, was key in obtaining an alliance with the French during the Revolutionary War. Now besides making it possible for the US to win independence, this caused a chain reaction of other revolutions and rebellions, including in France, where the mounting debt added to by the millions given in aid to us actually led to the overthrow of the French monarchy. So Franklin was instrumental in bringing about, directly and indirectly, successful revolutions against two of the world's greatest empires.
Absolutely! Benjamin Franklin influenced many areas of American life, not to mention his influences in England and France during his lifetime as ambassador and academic. His experiements with electricity, science, government, and his abilities as statesman have changed the world.
Going back to your original question about the world being different without his discovery, I'm assuming you are talking about lightening being electricity. Although Franklin was a great mind, the scientific discoveries he made would have been made by others within a short time. There were a lot of people working with those ideas during these times, and the quick answer to your question is that without Franklin, some things would have been delayed, in the scientific areas, but the net effect for the present would be minimal.
If you refer to his place in politics, though, things could very well have been different without him. dbello, in post #2, hits on what I think are the more pivotal differences Franklin made.
Ben Franklin was an extremely interesting person. He was a statesman, inventor, printer, postmaster general, scientist, and patriot. There is no doubt that the world would be a different place had Franklin not lived. Some of his extraordinary accomplishments are his invention of bifocals glasses, the Franklin stove, fins (similiar to flippers in underwater diving). He harnessed electricity writng much on its potential. He started the first fire company and street lighting company to ensure safety on the streets. He published two newspapers, 'Poor Richard's Almanac' and the 'Pennsylvannia Gazette' in order to inform the public of their surroundings. Franklin was responsible for securing the funds from France to foster the patriot cause in America. He was a great neogotiator of treaties with foreign nations in order to strengthen America's position in the world. Franklin was instrumental in not only changing the world we live in he helped to create the world we live in.
Here's only 2 points from his remarkable life: Franklin is the reason we describe both static and current electricity as "positive" or "negative." His observation that lightning appears to be a bigger version of the tiny electrical sparks he produced in his laboratory led him to prove that lightning was indeed electricity, and being so, he realized that grounding it would through lightning rods would save buildings from the risk of fire. This may seem trivial to us, but in his day he had literally "stolen the god's thunder." What had thought to have been the domain of the divine proved nothing more than a replicable natural phenomena. As Postmaster General to the American Colonies, he was caught intercepting the mail and publishing its contents when he was attempting to influence the removal of the Massachusetts colonial governor following the Boston Tea Party. A certain member of Parliament saw an opportunity to make a bid for Prime Minister, while concurrently destroying Franklin politically. In January 1774, Franklin stood in a place known as the "Cock pit" where he endured a 2 hour censure. Seeing that this was a ploy for political office rather than anything to do to attempt to resolve problems between Parliament and Colonies, he concluded that he, along with his countrymen, "must be Americans, for we can no longer be Britons." Who had been an ardent supporter of Empire became equally an ardent supporter of Revolution, convincing many colonial leader to do the same.
Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a contributor to its content, he edited Thomas Jefferson's first draft, invented the concept of the library. Creating the first lending library in Philadephia, he set in motion the ability of the common people to get access to books and education. Dedicated to education, he started a small academy, which today is known as the University of Pennsylvania.
Further contributing to the foundational necessities of a prosperous and civilized society, he established the first hospital in Philadelphia, the idea of the Post Office, Fire Department and Police force all came from Franklin.
Franklin's experiments and innate curiosity about the nature of electricity furthered the study of the phenomena. He invented the lightening rod, which helped buildings not be burned to the ground when stuck by lightening. He also tried to harness the power of lightening and its relationship to electricity, conducting many experiments where electricity was funneled into his home through conductors.
Franklin was a great statesman, inventor and political philosopher. His contributions to modern life range from the simple to the complex.
"in music, creating the glass harmonica for which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, and others wrote music; he died the most beloved man in America and the most respected American in the world."
The period of time that the American Revolution was in, the 18th century, was (as a whole) a great period of discovery, invention, and advancement. Benjamin Franklin was at the forefront of all this towards the end of the century.
Not only was Franklin a good person, he was also a very intelligent man. Many of his inventions are still in use today, or at least a version of it (such as the bifocals).
One of my personal favorite things Franklin did was his perspective on life. Now, this is not your "typical" invention, but it really did help not only him become a more productive person, but also many people around him. His saying "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man happy, healthy, and wise" is one of my favorites.