On June 10, 1752, 46-year old Benjamin Franklin tied a key to some hemp rope attached to a kite, and raised the kite into the air above his Philadelphia home. He had been convinced that electricity from lightning could be harnessed for use, but had not succeeded in proving his hypothesis. As a thunderstorm passed overhead, he was able to successfully conduct electricity.
The great man’s own words convey what happened next, and its implications:
“ As soon as any of the thunder clouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be electrified, and the loose filaments of the twine, will stand out every way, and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has wetted the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle. At this key the phial may be charged: and from electric fire thus obtained, spirits may be kindled, and all the other electric experiments be performed, which are usually done by the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube, and thereby the sameness of the electric matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated.”
–From a letter to Peter Collinson, October 1752.
Franklin the Wordsmith
Franklin’s success was just one of innumerable inventions, achievements, and scientific breakthroughs that this extraordinary founding father was responsible for. In addition to this great discovery, Franklin also postulated that electricity was fluid, an unheard of concept during the 18th century. Franklin’s work became the basis for the single fluid theory. When something is being charged, such as a car battery, electricity flows from a positive body, that with an excess charge, to a negative body, that with negative charge. At the time, there was not even language to describe the processes he was trying to experiment with. As a result, he coined many electrical terms that are still in use to this day, such as Battery, Charge, Condensor, Conductor, Plus, Minus, Armature, and other electrical terms.
Using his curiosity, his critical thinking skills, and his creativity, he successfully posited and proved a theory which would eventually lead to our digitally connected world. We celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s quest for knowledge, and urge you to inspire your own inner Franklin with some scientific experiments of your own.
Check out The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science, Theo Gray’s Mad Science, or Fire Bubbles & Exploding Toothpaste for a wealth of scientific experiments that utilize everyday household objects and bring the wonders of science to your own home!
The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/book-of-totally-irresponsible-science
Theo Gray’s Mad Science: http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/theo-gray-s-mad-science-book
Fire Bubbles & Exploding Toothpaste: http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/fire-bubbles-and-exploding-toothpaste
Geek Dad 3: Mad Scientists: http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/geek-dad-book-for-aspiring-mad-scientists
Chemistry Experiment Kit: http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/chemistry-c1000-kit