Benjamin Franklin Discovers Electricity

As every circumstance relating to so capital a discovery as this (the greatest, perhaps, that has been made in the whole compass of philosophy, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton) cannot but give pleasure to all my readers, I shall endeavour to gratify them with the communication of a few particulars which I have from the best authority. The Doctor [Benjamin Franklin], after having published his method of verifying his hypothesis concerning the sameness of electricity with the matter lightning, was waiting for the erection of a spire in Philadelphia to carry his views into execution; not imagining that a pointed rod, of a moderate height, could answer the purpose; when it occurred to him, that, by means of a common kite, he could have a readier and better access to the regions of thunder than by any spire whatever. Preparing, therefore, a large silk handkerchief, and two cross sticks, of a proper length, on which to extend it, he took the opportunity of the first approaching thunder storm to take a walk into a field, in which there was a shed convenient for his purpose. But dreading the ridicule which too commonly attends unsuccessful attempts in science, he communicated his intended experiment to no body but his son, who assisted him in raising the kite.

The kite being raised, a considerable time elapsed before there was any appearance of its being electrified. One very promising cloud passed over it without any effect; when, at length, just as he was beginning to despair of his contrivance, he observed some loose threads of the hempen string to stand erect, and to avoid one another, just as if they had been suspended on a common conductor. Struck with this promising appearance, he inmmediately presented his knuckle to the key, and (let the reader judge of the exquisite pleasure he must have felt at that moment) the discovery was complete. He perceived a very evident electric spark. Others succeeded, even before the string was wet, so as to put the matter past all dispute, and when the rain had wetted the string, he collected electric fire very copiously. This happened in June 1752, a month after the electricians in France had verified the same theory, but before he had heard of any thing that they had done.


An account of his kite experiment.

Folksonomies: history discovery experiment electricity

/business and industrial/energy/oil (0.577686)
/travel/tourist destinations/france (0.373758)
/business and industrial/energy/electricity (0.283202)

Benjamin Franklin (0.944512 (positive:0.588498)), Benjamin Franklin Discovers (0.936320 (positive:0.588498)), Sir Isaac Newton (0.897678 (neutral:0.000000)), large silk handkerchief (0.880909 (neutral:0.000000)), evident electric spark (0.838017 (positive:0.640670)), kite experiment (0.740680 (positive:0.588498)), common kite (0.697370 (neutral:0.000000)), Electricity An account (0.688348 (positive:0.588498)), best authority (0.668982 (positive:0.709195)), moderate height (0.668880 (positive:0.336533)), pointed rod (0.663636 (neutral:0.000000)), unsuccessful attempts (0.658531 (negative:-0.707331)), matter lightning (0.657623 (neutral:0.000000)), hempen string (0.655058 (negative:-0.227805)), proper length (0.654858 (positive:0.452658)), promising appearance (0.654785 (neutral:0.000000)), better access (0.653541 (positive:0.220478)), cross sticks (0.652696 (neutral:0.000000)), thunder storm (0.647529 (neutral:0.000000)), considerable time (0.646080 (neutral:0.000000)), exquisite pleasure (0.645238 (positive:0.427599)), loose threads (0.632788 (negative:-0.227805)), reader judge (0.628967 (positive:0.427599)), common conductor (0.627224 (neutral:0.000000)), spire (0.523933 (positive:0.220478)), discovery (0.486899 (positive:0.631028)), purpose (0.485922 (neutral:0.000000)), circumstance (0.471272 (positive:0.631028)), sameness (0.470638 (neutral:0.000000)), contrivance (0.466629 (negative:-0.428667))

Benjamin Franklin:Person (0.797183 (positive:0.588498)), Sir Isaac Newton:Person (0.550752 (neutral:0.000000)), France:Country (0.393087 (neutral:0.000000)), Philadelphia:City (0.391657 (neutral:0.000000))

Lightning (0.983028): dbpedia | freebase
Isaac Newton (0.912833): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Benjamin Franklin (0.847372): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Deism (0.564659): dbpedia | freebase
Royal Society (0.561879): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Electricity (0.551126): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Electric charge (0.546587): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Physics (0.513962): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The History and Present State of Electricity with Original Experiments
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Priestley, Joseph (1775), The History and Present State of Electricity with Original Experiments, Retrieved on 2012-06-21
  • Source Material []