Daily Archives: November 6, 2011


“In December 1750, [Benjamin] Franklin had invited some friends to his Philadelphia home to help him slaughter a turkey by electrocution for Christmas dinner, using a charge from two Leyden jars. An experienced printer, Franklin had powerful hands and was extremely dexterous. But, in this instance, allowing himself to be distracted by his guests, and not minding for a moment what surfaces he was touching, he ‘inadvertently took [the stored electricity] through my own arms and body, by receiving the fire from the united top wires with one hand while the other held a chain connected with the outsides of both jars. The company present … say that the flash was very great and the crack as loud as a pistol. I then felt what I know not well how to describe: a universal blow throughout my whole body from head to foot, which seemed within as well as without.’ One of Franklin’s hands, ‘feeling like dead flesh,’ instantly turned white, as if all the blood had been driven out.”

–Philip Dray. Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America. New York: Random House, 2005. Quote on pages xii-xiii.