Benjamin Franklin one of the founding father's of open source? ;-)
Around 1742 Benjamin Franklin improved on the existing design and manufacturing of cast iron stoves. Instead of patenting his ideas he placed them in the public domain. In his Autobiography his preference in such matters: "As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously." This spirit is often felt by others and is alive in the open source community. When I started programming in the early 80's programs were placed in the public domain. Many were ignore after all who needed another C pretty printer? I can only hope something I've worked on has some value for future generations. At least I can say I am part of the community. :-)
Now before anyone suggests my American cnetric view of the world is clouding my logical thought, it's not. I am certain that people before Benjamin Franklin were doing the same kind of free idea sharing. I'm certain that it probably dates back to prehistory. It just happened to be that I was doing a term paper on newspapers and began reading quite a bit more on Benjamin Franklin. I consider him one of my heroes, along with Albert Einstein. I also understand that my heroes are human, that they have human frailties and that they made mistakes too. So I'll praise what I like and ignore the rest.