250 Years, We Still Believe in You, Ben
Hazen - June 25, 2002
250 years ago this month Benjamin Franklin
flew his kite in one of the most famous experiments in history.
Many articles have been written to say that he may not have
performed this experiment at all. We believe he did and use
Joseph Priestley as the source of the famous claim. According
to Priestley, Ben (46) and his 21 year old son set out in
June (10th?) 1752 to prove Franklin's theory about the nature
of lightning. Benjamin and his son went into a field near
downtown Philadelphia. There they awaited a thunderstorm.
They did not seek a lightning bolt, just
the charged clouds. The clouds charged the kite and the kite
string. Ben had attached a key to a piece of dry silk thread
to insulate it from the natural fiber kite string (which was
damp). As he flew the kite, he could draw an arc from the
key to his hand thus proving lightning was the same energy
form as the static electricity being used in labs across the
Franklin was not the first person to propose
the similarities between electrostatics and lightning. He
was the first to prove it by experimentation.
The results of this experiment were predicted
a week before by French scientists. But no one until Mr. Franklin
had thought to test the theory in quite this way.
After this experiment, Franklin became one
of the world's most respected scientists with no formal education
in the sciences. His experiment whether it took place as Priestley
said or not, he did change the way we look at electrostatics.