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> Benjamin Franklin Issue: 2012-2 Section: 14-16



Benjamin Franklin


In a rainy autumn day of 1706, a baby who was going to bring the humanity one of the most important gifts came into the world: the power of overcoming the strength of lightning - which will save the word from its catastrophic hits.

What in our days seems so easy to understand: that the clouds are filled with positive or negative energy and when they are in vicinity an electric discharge is being produced - the lighting, in their times was an incomprehensible In ancient times, human fear for these phenomena of the sky was so big, that flashes of lightning and the sound of thunders were thought as god's powerful possession. Among the millennia mankind endured the terror of lightning and

supported its strikes without any possibility of resistance. During storms ship's masts were affected by lightening and the navigators with their burdens descended in the bottom of the water; people and animals having their own unconscious shelter under the biggest trees were stroke; high houses or those who were constructed on heights ended being hit by lightning. Poor people believed that they were punished by the anger of haven.

Only in the middle of the 18th century a bold man eventually appeared who didn't believe those prejudices of his times. He had shown the world, risking even his own life, what is the truth with this phenomena and the most important thing he explained to them was how its devastating effects can be avoided. That man was called Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin, the tenth born in his family, inherited the spiritual and bodily vigour of his American's ancestors. He will not suffer in his long life -up to eighty-four years- of no disease, except that which will bring him death- oldness.

During his life, Benjamin Franklin had succeeded with his ingenious mind to influence science in an enormous degree.

When he was 40 years old, he started to be interested by electricity, a new notion in those times. He was the first to apply the knowledge about the Leyda battery.

In 1744, Franklin formulates two fundamental contributions to the theory of electricity: the first one defining electricity as a simple fluid and the second one substituting the name of positive and negative electricity instead of vitreous and resinous electricity, as it was generally conceived in those times.

After he made a pause in his science activity because of the French colonies who attacked Canada, Franklin imagined the first electric battery in history. He studied the similarities between the electrical fluid and lightning and he found 12 similarities. He was looking for a method to prove that lightning is nothing else than electricity.

In 1750 he theoretically described in "Gentleman's Magazine" the lightning rod and in the same time he published his piece of work in a brochure. He proposed a decisive experience to the Royal Society of London, which was the England Academy of Science.

In 23 November 1750, Franklin experiments his study with an iron sharp peak bar, which should attract clouds, charged with electricity and he was very close to be electrocuted. He published a new brochure. France gave his experiment much more attention than other states, and all that thanks to Buffon. Studies realised by Franklin at Philadelphia were repeated in France and later in England and Belgium.

In July 1752, he made the famous kite experiment being assisted by his son William, wanting "to extract the flame of the cloud". In that way he verified his theory of electricity and the necessity of the lightning rod. The experiment was also made in France, without Franklin’s knowledge, only a month before, in another form. In minus (negative), plus (positive), charged with electricity, electrified and electrician.

Franklin conducted his main scientific research between 1746 and 1752. Benjamin Franklin worked not only with electricity, but also with cyclones and anticyclones, publishing valuable observations in this direction, too. For all these reasons he was highly regarded by the scientific community of his time, and it is in this context that we should consider the Latin description that he was given at an Academy meeting: "Eripuit coelo fulmen sceptrumque tyrannis" (He robbed the sky of his lightening and the titans of their scepter). His general recognition as an important scientist can also be seen from the imprinting of his face on the one hundred dollar bill.



  • “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”, Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2003
  • “The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin”, Cheryl Harness, National Georgaphic, 2002