Franklin’s Lightning Bells

Diagram of Lightning Bells

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Besides inventing the lightning rod, Ben Franklin experimented with this apparatus which gathered invisible electric charges from the breeze above his home. When enough charges were collected, a little brass ball would be attracted to the bells. It must have been like having electric wind chimes inside the house. Under certain atmospheric conditions, noisy electric arcs sometimes flashed between the bells, lighting up the entire room. A direct lightning strike would have been extremely dangerous and probably would have ignited nearby materials inside Franklin’s home!

When he was not observing electrostatic effects between the bells and the brass ball, Franklin wrote that he often used a glass jar to collect electric charges from the upper bell.

Steve Nazigian, nazigian @ hotmail com

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