It wasn’t a good day for anything outdoors. The sky being dark and stormy, was frightening enough to turn down all possible thoughts of stepping out of shelters.

What could you possibly do on a Stormy day like this?

You could either sit near the window and see the raindrops smearing down the glass while soothing yourself with a hot cup of tea, or “could just brace up, step out and create a history!”

Sounds strange but there on the grounds of Philadelphia lived an ardent researcher named Benjamin Franklin whose curiosity led him to create a history by flying a kite in the middle of the storm, an experiment that set a milestone in the field of Electric Sciences.

Popular as Benjamin Franklin’s Kite experiment, it was actually a part of his hypothesis of confirming the nature of lightning which he believed to be nothing but a high power electric current or simply Electricity.

Benjamin Franklin – The Man of Honour!

Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the USA. Being an inventor of a colossal level, he never patented any of his work, an excerpt from his autobiography will explain “….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.” How sweet!

The Famous Kite-experiment!

Benjamin Franklin’s foremost intertwine with electricity can be dated back during mid 17th century when he attended the Archibald Spencer’s lectures involving static current for illustrations.

All the works, inventions Benjamin Franklin did on electricity was conducted much in a sober manner except one. You got me!

Benjamin’s initial idea to test the hypothesis was by erecting an Iron rod into the storm clouds. He was about to invent a lightning rod through this experiment. So what’s the catch?

Benjamin couldn’t proceed with his idea as he was expecting to do it from a higher grounds, and Philadelphia, the place where he was planning to conduct, had a flat landscape. So he thought to wait for completion of the tallest structure in town, the Church. But, curiosity superseded patience and he decided to experiment by using a kite instead of waiting for the church to be completed.

June 1750, had a day that seemed perfect to Benjamin to experiment on one of the terrifying elements of nature.

What kind of a kite would survive such a harsh weather?

Not an ordinary one! Benjamin used Silk handkerchief to create kite as it would withstand rain and wind better than paper. The Silk handkerchief was spread over the entire length of perfectly crossed cedar wood sticks to create the framework for the kite.

To the upper end of the kite, he erected a foot-long metal wire that would act as a lightning conductor. The lower end of the kite was tied to a Hemp string that was lengthened down till it ends at a silk string.

Why two different strings on the same path? The hemp string was supposed to conduct electricity, attracted by the metal string, to the desired point, but not till it electrocutes Benjamin who held the string. So the string held by him was of silk.

As an additional precaution, Benjamin didn’t show himself to rain directly but took a shed under one of the houses in barn field.

Image Source: Pinterest

His idea was to sample the electricity. For that, he attached a metal key at the lower end of the hemp string. To the key, another conducive wire ending in a Leyden jar for storing the electricity, was attached.

All things in place, he flew the kite. The kite flying high in the air showed sparks of electricity the moment lightning hit the metal key. When he brought down the key and tried to touch it with his knuckle, he felt a mild blow of electric charge.

What did he conclude?

The lightning when hit the key left the electric charges on it. When Benjamin touched the key by his knuckle, the negatively charged electric charges, quickly moved into his body, which was positively charged, but in the form of shock.

“Benjamin Franklin touching the Key with his Knuckle”
Image Source:

He concluded that the lightning is a form of electricity, and is static in nature. Better said, Lightning is a Stationary or Static Electricity. Thus, we can say it wasn’t Benjamin who discovered electricity but he did prove that lightning is a form of electrical energy.


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