Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States and is well known for his work as a politician, author, printer, scientist, inventor and diplomat. However, one of his most influential contributions was in the field of electricity.
Franklin's Interest in Electricity
Franklin had long been curious about electricity. In 1746, he witnessed a demonstration of static electricity generated by rubbing glass globes, which sparked his interest. I became obsessed with learning more about this mysterious force of nature.
Over the next several years, Franklin conducted numerous experiments with electricity. He coined terms like 'battery', 'conductor' and 'electrician' that are still used today. His most famous experiments involved capturing electricity from lightning using a kite and key.
Controversial and Dangerous Experiments
While fascinating, many of Franklin's electrical experiments were quite controversial and dangerous. For instance, he once nearly killed himself by electrocuting himself in an attempt to cook a turkey with electricity.
Franklin would also perform public demonstrations of electricity's powers, deliberately shocking himself and volunteers in front of audiences. This was done partly for scientific curiosity but also for publicity and entertainment.
"I had a mind to make some experiments on electricity. My first thoughts were to try if I could electrise my handkerchief, and draw sparks from it" - Franklin's journal
These radical public experiments with electricity helped foster public interest but were condemned by some at the time as inappropriate or unsafe.
Discoveries About Electricity's Nature
Through his experiments, Franklin made several groundbreaking discoveries about the nature of electricity:
- Electricity could be conducted through metals like wire - This allowed electricity to be transmitted over distances
- There were positive and negative charges - Franklin identified the concepts of positively charged and negatively charged particles
- Lightning was a form of electricity - This connection was proven with the kite experiment
These revelations about electricity laid the foundation for future innovations.
Lasting Impact on Home Wiring
One of the most direct impacts of Franklin's work with electricity was on the development of wiring for lights and appliances within homes.
Before Franklin, there was no way to transmit electricity through wires. His experiments showed that metal wires could conduct electricity. This made indoor electric lighting and appliances possible by allowing electricity to flow through wires from its source to devices.
"Electricity is actually a form of energy that can be carried by wires and used to power devices. Benjamin Franklin's work helped demonstrate how this was possible."
After Franklin, engineers could take advantage of wiring to bring electricity into homes and power various devices like lights and stoves. Over time, home electrical wiring became more sophisticated, leading to the extensive wired systems we have today. The wiring in modern homes that allows us to enjoy electricity can be traced back to Franklin's pioneering electrical experiments.
While controversial in his time, Benjamin Franklin's fearless experiments with electricity fundamentally changed our understanding of this powerful natural force. His discoveries enabled the development of electrical wiring that brings electricity into our homes. Franklin's work electrified and transformed home energy usage for future generations.