Celebrating the birth of Ben Franklin and electricity

Submitted by sshockley on
A photo of Ben Franklin with a lightning bolt and the words Benjamin Franklin, Inventor

Three hundred and seven years ago on this date, Ben Franklin was born. In recognition of his birth, today is Ben Franklin Day!

What you ask, does that have to do with Cleveland Public Power? Not much, but it's an often unheard of holiday, and there is a correlation between Franklin and electricity. Many of you know that he was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat, to name a few. However, let's focus on the scientist/inventor portion of his life.

At age 40, Franklin's curiosity was piqued when he heard about the "Leiden Jar, " a device that stored static electricity between two electrodes on the inside and outside of a glass jar. It consisted of a glass jar with metal foil cemented to the internal and external surfaces and a metal terminal projecting vertically through the jar's lid to make contact with the inner foil. It's considered to be the original form of a capacitor and was initially known as a condenser. The name Leiden is in honor of the inventors who lived in Leiden, Germany.

Obsessed with this Leiden Jar, Franklin proposed that "vitreous" and "resinous" electricity were not two different types of "electrical fluid" but the same fluid under different pressures. With this distinction, he was the first to label them as positive and negative, leading to the discovery of the "Principle of Conservation of Charge."

On June 15, 1752, in Philadelphia, he conducted his infamous "Kite and Key" experiment during a thunderstorm to prove that lightning was indeed a pure form of electricity. He did his research well because he was careful not to get electrocuted by standing on an insulator while keeping dry under a roof to avoid the dangerous electric shock.   The experiment was proven successful and thus began the discovery of electricity.