Scene: June 1752, Philadelphia
Benjamin Franklin was quite frankly irritated with all the people who didn’t believe that lightning conducted electric currents. He therefore devised an experiment which would shut up all the naysayers comprehensively.
On a dark afternoon, the weather was conducive for Ben to conduct his experiment. He therefore took his youngest son William along with him to help him out. Together they attached a kite to a silk string, and tied an iron key somewhere near where the string would be held by the flier. They then tied a metal wire from the iron key and inserted the other end of the metal wire into a Leyden Jar (a container invented for the specific purpose of storing electric charges).
Finally, the dark clouds rolled in quickly, casting strange shadows across the landscape. Ben then attached a silk ribbon to the key and flew the kite until it was aloft. Both he and William then retreated into a loft so that they wouldn’t get wet and more importantly, the portion of the silk ribbon which Ben was holding wouldn’t get wet.
The thunder cloud passed over the kite and the electric charges passed on to the kite, down the wet silk string, through the key into the Leyden Jar. However, since Ben was holding on to the dry silk ribbon, he was not electrocuted.
Once the storm passed over, when Ben went to the Leyden Jar and examined the same, he realized that his experiment had been a success. Finally he had proof that lightning carried electric charges.
Image courtesy: www.codecheck.com
This post has been put up for Today’s Author Writing Prompt for September 17, 2013. The prompt had to include the phrase – the dark clouds rolled in quickly, casting strange shadows across the landscape.
Although this post is based on historical fact, a controversy still exists as to whether Benjamin Franklin actually performed this experiment or not. The fact that there were no witnesses to this experiment and no location named makes this one of America’s enduring urban legends.