How Benjamin Franklin's Key and Kite Experiment Forever Changed the History of Electricity


In the year 1752, I conducted a groundbreaking experiment that demonstrated the electrical nature of lightning. By flying a kite with a metal key attached during a thunderstorm, I was able to collect electric charge from a storm cloud, proving that lightning was indeed electrical. This simple yet ingenious experiment changed the course of scientific history and laid the foundation for many future discoveries and innovations involving electricity.

My Early Fascination with Electricity

Ever since I was a young man, I had been intrigued by the strange phenomena of static electricity and lightning. I conducted experiments with static electricity using glass tubes and my electrostatic machine. By rubbing the glass tubes with my hands, I could build up a static charge that produced little sparks. However, I wondered whether the giant sparks of lightning were simply bigger versions of the little sparks from my electrostatic experiments.

Through my observations and readings on electricity, I came to believe that electricity from lightning was no different from the type of electricity I could create by rubbing glass. I theorized that lightning must also be an electrical phenomenon, but I needed to test my hypothesis through a dangerous experiment.

Planning the Kite and Key Apparatus

To prove that lightning was electrical, I needed to find a way to collect electrical charge from a storm cloud. I planned to do this by flying a kite with a pointed metal key attached during a thunderstorm. The metal key would act as a conductor through which electricity from the clouds could travel down the wet kite string.

I carefully prepared materials for my experiment- a silk handkerchief for the kite, a sharp pointed key, and hemp twine for the string. I also made sure to include an insulator in the string which was a silk ribbon. This was to prevent the electric current from traveling down the full length of the string and potentially shocking me.

My Fateful Kite Flight

On a stormy day in 1752, I trekked out to a field accompanied by my son. As lightning flashed in the sky, I raised my kite into the air, waiting for the string to become wet from the rain.

To my elation, after some time I noticed the loose fibers on the string rise up as the electric charge collected. Excited but cautious, I used my knuckle to draw sparks of electricity from a metal key attached to the kite string, proving the presence of electric charge.

Through this clever yet simple experiment, I conclusively proved that lightning was in fact an electrical phenomenon. My groundbreaking discovery paved the way for monumental advances in our understanding of electricity over the next centuries.

Aftermath and Impact

My kite experiment was a major milestone in the progress of science. By showing that lightning was electrical, I demonstrated that the principles governing small sparks also applied to massive sparks from the sky. The following are some key impacts of my experiment:

My simple yet brilliant kite experiment changed scientific notions about electricity in my time. More importantly, it set the stage for the electrification that transformed the modern world into what it is today. When I flew my fateful kite that stormy day, I was harnessing a primal force of nature and unleashing its vast potential to serve humanity.