LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
Old Ben flew a kite out a window in a thunderstorm causing electricity from the storm’s lightning to be conducted down a line from the kite to charge a metal key that was kept in a Leyden Jar. He had therefore proved that lightning was a form of electricity. End of story? Well maybe not. Many historians contend that Franklin’s experiment never happened.
Others had a similar experiment in mind before Franklin. A Frenchman named Balibard conducted the same experiment using a 40 foot iron rod instead of a kite (and he stood well back from it). Franklin was probably aware of Balibard’s work.
The first mention of the experiment (aside from Franklin’s theorizing its possibility) was 15 years after he was to have done it, in a book written by Joseph Priestley in 1767. Why would Franklin never speak about an experiment he risked his life to perform?
You can’t fly a kite out a window or from inside a barn. How would you launch it, and how would you control it?
Any conducting metal wire from the kite to the key would be instantly burned up by a lightning bolt. An electrified key in a glass-lined jar wouldn’t “rattle” as reported later, it would explode.
Some stories say that Franklin and his son were standing in an open field for the experiment, and while they could launch and control the kite somewhat, the danger of a lightning strike conducted downward would prove a fatal jolt. Later on, some would-be scientists who tried to duplicate Franklin’s experiment were electrocuted.
One Proposed Explanation
Well, legend or not, everyone will have to decide for themselves what they believe. What do you think the truth is?