Friday, June 15, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night . . .

It was a dark and stormy night back in 1752. Since there was nothing on TV worth a darn and, since he had been wondering if there really was electricity up in those dark clouds, Benjamin Franklin tied an iron wire to his kite and let it sail. He flew the kite from a long piece of twine tied to a silk ribbon on the end. Franklin attached a metal key where the twine and silk met.
Ben, not being a total dummy, flew the kite high in the wind, but stood in a doorway so the silk ribbon (and he) would not get wet. His idea was that any electricity overhead would be attracted to the wire on top of the kite. It was lucky for Franklin that no actual lightning bolt struck the wire or Ben would have been toast! However, as lightning began to flash, he put his hand near the key and sparks flew. The test was a success!

Franklin used his discovery to start a new business. He made and sold lightning rods. These metal rods were attached to the tops of buildings. A wire ran down the side of the structure to the ground. When lightning struck the top of the rod, it ran down the wire and safely to ground without doing damage to the building. Benjamin Franklin’s kite flying and, subsequently, lightning rods have prevented many buildings from going up in smoke.

No comments: