Did you know that June 15, 1752 is the traditional date for when Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning is electricity? His experiments involved flying a kite in a lightning storm. The kite had two strings: a dry, insulated string was used to control the kite; a wet string connected the kite near the clouds to a metal key near the ground and conducted collected electricity to a Leyden jar. During the experiment Benjamin Franklin moved his hand near the metal key and observed an electric spark. Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with lighting led him to invent the lightning rod which protects buildings from lightning strikes.
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The exact date of Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with lightning are not known.
Benjamin Franklin was aware of the dangers associated with his kite experiment. He took precautions such as sheltering in dry and insulated places, using silk strings, and collecting electricity from a storm cloud instead of an actual lighting strike. Other scientists, such as Professor George Wilhelm Richmann, were not so cautious and were electrocuted while trying to perform the experiment.
Benjamin Franklin started studying electricity in 1746. During Benjamin Franklin’s time, electricity was called ‘electrical fluid’.
A Leyden jar was an early form of a capacitor. It can store a high-voltage electrical charge.
After a fire destroyed some of Harvard University’s lab equipment, Benjamin Franklin advised the University regarding new electrical laboratory equipment. The collection of equipment is now a part of the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and is on display in the Science Center.