Ben Franklin and His Kite Experiment, The Real Story

By | February 22, 2019

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A Currier & Ives lithograph of Benjamin Franklin and his son William using a kite and key during a storm to prove that lightning was electricity, June 1752. Source: (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Every school kid has learned the story of Benjamin Franklin and how he discovered electricity by flying a kite into a thunderstorm. The story we learned in grade school, however, is a bit more complex. While it is true that Franklin tied a key to a kite string and ventured off into an electrical storm, his scientific experiment didn't ‘discover’ electricity. But it did aid our understanding of it. Here is the real story of Ben Franklin and his kite. 

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Ben Franklin was a Renaissance Man

Even though he was born a century or so after the end of the Renaissance period, it would be safe to call Benjamin Franklin a Renaissance Man because he had such a wide range of interests. He was, of course, a politician and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an author, printer, and publisher. He served as a postmaster, a patent officer, and a diplomat. He studied complex scientific principles and was extremely knowledgeable in the areas of natural science, physics, and more. As an inventor, he is credited with developing bifocal glasses, the Franklin stove, and lightning rods. As a community leader, he started the library system in the U.S., founded the first fire department, and started the University of Pennsylvania. He was known as a great dancer, bit of a womanizer, a Freemason, and a downright funny guy.