Ben Franklin, his kite, and lighting. Likely, you've seen or heard about Ben Franklin's Kite experiment somewhere--a stamp, a textbook, or a popular science magazine. It's nearly as famous as the apple that fell on Sir Isaac Newton's head, but did he really conduct the experiment? If so, was he the first? The first report of extracting energy from lightning was published in May 1752 from Thomas Dailbard and his group in France. They used a forty foot tall iron structure, not a kite. A few months later Jacques De Roma, described his proposal to use "a child's toy" to test if electricity could be captured from the clouds. It was not until August of that year that Franklin published his own description. Although typically a man of detail, Franklin wrote
how one could use a kite to capture electricity from the clouds during a storm. He described how easy it would be to conduct the experiment, as if to convince readers to try. In fact, a few months after his publication he published a call to his readers for their own experiences with different materials, maybe the first example of #citizenscience?