What Was Benjamin Franklin's Kite Experiment?

benjamin-franklin-s-kite-experiment Credit: Arindam Sen Photography/Moment/Getty Images

According to Code Check, Benjamin Franklin's famous kite experiment refers to an attempt by the renowned scientist, philosopher and politician to prove his theories about electricity. He took a simple kite out on a stormy day with his son and made the shocking discovery that lightning was related to the phenomenon of static electricity.

USHistory.org explains that Benjamin Franklin himself never documented the kite experiment, but rather relayed the details to be written and published by his friend, Joseph Priestley. The experiment occurred in 1752 when a 46-year-old Franklin took to the outdoors to prove that lightning was electricity and could be channeled into physical objects. According to Code Check, Franklin attached the kite to a silk string, tied an iron key on the opposite end and secured a thin metal wire to the key that led into a jar. The jar was made for storing electrical charges and was theorized to catch the charge that would be drawn to the key through the kite.

When the storm came, Franklin's observations and hypotheses paid off. The lightning frayed the string as it traveled into the jar. Code Check explains that Franklin himself was unaffected by the charge until he lifted his free hand and received a mild shock. Other scientists who attempted to repeat this famous experiment were electrocuted due to the high level of conductivity.