Benjamin Franklin was one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. He had many accomplishments as a scientist and inventor. Two of his most famous experiments were the key and kite experiments with electricity. These simple but insightful experiments changed our understanding of electricity and paved the way for modern electrical wiring.

Franklin's Interest in Electricity

Benjamin Franklin had long been interested in electricity. In the 18th century, electricity was still a mysterious force that few people understood. Franklin was fascinated by it and spent years studying static electricity and lightning.

He carried out experiments with stored static charges in Leyden jars and conducted several studies on electricity's effects. Franklin hypothesized that lightning was simply a huge spark of electricity from the clouds. However, he needed to prove this revolutionary idea.

The Idea Behind the Experiments

Franklin conceived clever experiments to test his hypothesis about lightning and electricity. First, he planned the kite experiment. Franklin proposed flying a kite with a metal tip into a storm cloud to attract lightning.

A wet string would conduct the electricity down the kite string. With a metal key attached to the string, Franklin could collect the electrical charge. This would demonstrate lightning was electrical.

Performing the Kite Experiment

On a stormy day in 1752, Franklin and his son went out to fly the kite. As rain fell, Franklin stood inside a shed while his son William ran out into the field. William flew the kite to attract lightning while Franklin waited safely inside.

As the storm picked up, Franklin moved his hand near the key and was thrilled to see sparks jump from the key to his knuckle. The experiment was a success! Franklin had proven that lightning was indeed electrical. This discovery formed the basis for later inventions of lightning rods.

The Electrical Charge Storage Test

After the kite experiment, Franklin performed another simple but enlightening test. He took an ordinary metal key and electrified it by rubbing it with a piece of fur. This created a static electrical charge on the key.

Franklin then approached an Leyden jar, a device to store electricity, holding the charged key. When the charged key was brought near the jar, it transferred its electrical charge into the jar for storage. This demonstrated how static electricity could be collected and stored.

Significance for Electrical Wiring

These experiments with static charges and lightning electricity had huge implications for the future of electrical wiring. They showed electricity could be controlled and safely handled if proper precautions were taken.

Franklin's work was the foundation for managing electrical currents with wires and conductors. It paved the way for capturing electricity in batteries and generators. The insights from the key and kite laid the groundwork for designing safe, functional electrical wiring systems.

Franklin's Pioneering Electrical Discoveries

It's astonishing what Benjamin Franklin achieved with such basic experiments using ordinary objects like keys and kites. But these simple tests unlocked the secrets of electricity and changed our world forever.

Franklin showed that lightning was just a spark of electricity. This allowed the development of lightning rods. Franklin also discovered how to store static electricity in jars. This knowledge was fundamental to creating batteries for electrical use.


With his famous key and kite experiments, Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning was electrical. This revolutionary finding opened up the possibility of managing electricity for human benefit. The insights from these simple experiments allowed Franklin to develop new electrical devices and paved the way for modern electrical wiring.

Franklin's pioneering work forms the foundation of our ability to generate, control, store, and safely use electricity today. The next time you flip on a light switch or charge your phone, you have Benjamin Franklin and his ingenious key and kite experiments to thank!