Have a question? Need assistance? Use our online form to ask a librarian for help.
Arguably, the most well-known of Franklin's science ventures is the kite experiment. Without going into further detail, you've most likely pictured him flying a kite in a thunderstorm with a key attached to the line. While the kite itself was never struck by lightning, the iron rod attached to it was able to draw electrical charge from the surrounding clouds which then traveled to the Leyden jar for capture. This experiment in addition to Franklin's observations, proved that lightning itself was an electrical discharge.
Franklin was also an avid inventor, though he never patented any of his inventions. His reasoning is stated in his autobiography:
That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.
He designed and constructed inventions for every occasion including swimming paddles, the Franklin stove (also known as the Pennsylvania Fireplace), and the lightning rod to reduce the number of fires caused by lightning strikes. While serving as the first Postmaster General of the United States, appointed by the Second Continental Congress, Franklin devised an odometer that was attached to a carriage with the ultimate goal of creating more efficient routes. One of his most famous inventions comes in the form of glasses: the bifocals. At the time, people used separate glasses for reading and for distance so what Franklin did was cut the lenses from these two sets of glasses in half and adhere them. This enabled him to look up from his reading without having to switch glasses, which has subsequently helped millions to see without continuously swapping their specs.
If you have any question about Franklin or any scientific topic submit a question to us at Ask a Librarian.
Each of the following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. While these titles are held by the Library, many of them will also be available through your local public or academic library.
The following is a selection of journal articles and subscription databases where more information on Benjamin Franklin and science can be found. The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. The journal articles link to the fuller bibliographic information of the journals themselves in the Library of Congress online catalog.
The articles may be accessed on-site at the Library of Congress either by requesting the physical item via the online catalog or electronically through subscription databases in the E-Resources Online Catalog.
If you are unable to visit the Library of Congress, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.
The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.
The following is a list of selected online resources where researchers will find more information on Benjamin Franklin and his scientific accomplishments.