Benjamin Franklin is one of the most famous American scientists and statesmen. He made major contributions to the fields of physics and electricity. His most iconic scientific experiment was flying a kite in a thunderstorm to collect atmospheric electricity. This bold__experiment led to Franklin making his groundbreaking __discoveries about electricity and proving that lightning is a form of electricity.

Franklin's Interest in Electricity

Franklin started getting interested in electricity in the 1740s. At the time, scientists knew that certain materials like amber and glass could acquire an electric charge when rubbed. This static electricity could cause sparks or shocks. However, there were still many mysteries surrounding the nature of electricity.

Franklin conducted his own electrical experiments using glass tubes, bottles, and other objects. He coined terms like 'battery', 'positive' and 'negative' charges. Through his observations, he developed an early theory that electricity consisted of a 'common element' shared by different materials.

However, there was still no experimental proof that this 'common element' was connected to lightning. Proving this link became Franklin's main aim.

The Kite Experiment

Franklin hypothesized that clouds gained their electrical charge through wind and moisture. He proposed an experiment to collect electricity from a thundercloud by flying a kite with a pointed wire attached during a storm.

In 1752, Franklin conducted the famous kite experiment with the help of his son. During a stormy day, he flew a kite with a metal key attached to the top of the string. At the end of the wet kite string was an insulating silk ribbon with a metal key.

Franklin stood under a shelter to avoid getting struck by lightning. When the kite flew to a height of several hundred feet, Franklin put his knuckle near the key and was able to draw sparks of static electricity from it. This proved that the string was conducting electricity down from the clouds.

Discovering That Lightning Was Electricity

The kite experiment provided concrete evidence that lightning was a form of electricity. Franklin reasoned that the clouds were electrified by particles of opposite charge attracting and neutralizing each other, with any excess charge builds up leaking out as lightning.

By collecting electric charge from a storm cloud, the experiment proved electrical similarities between lightning and the sparks produced by static electricity. Franklin's groundbreaking work established electricity as an identifiable force of nature. He demonstrated that lightning was not the wrath of gods but a phenomenon that followed scientific laws.

Practical Applications

Based on his new theory of lightning's electrical nature, Franklin conceived the idea of using metal rods to protect buildings from lightning strikes. He invented the lightning rod to redirect lightning's electrical charge safely into the ground. This invention protected structures from fires and damage.

Franklin's electric experiments provided the foundation for new applications of electricity like batteries and condensers. Although rudimentary, his work paved the way for future advances in harnessing electricity for heat, light and power.


Benjamin Franklin's kite experiment was a pioneering scientific achievement of the 18th century. By collecting charge in a storm cloud, Franklin empirically verified the electrical nature of lightning for the first time. This discovery formed the basis of modern understanding and application of electricity. The bold yet simple act of flying a kite with a key led Franklin to make groundbreaking discoveries that electrified the world.