Sunday, May 20, 2007

Benjamin Franklin And His Lightning Rod.

Science taught me that problems will remain as problems if no new solutions were found to solve them. People who choose to stick to the safe middle ground and are comfortable with their routine are not those who will invent the lightning rod which created controversies like Benjamin Franklin did in the mid 18th century.

Many houses and churches, made mostly from timber in those days, were burned by fire cause by lightning during a thunderstorm. These fires destroyed many homes and caused considerable hardship and misery to many families. Many people accepted this as a catastrophy caused by nature and that man could do nothing about it.

Franklin in his search for a solution wondered what the properties of lightning and thunder bolts were and whether they were the same as electricity. He conducted his famous kite experiment. Few understand how the experiment worked but Franklin's experiment successfully proved that lightning was actually static electricity.

He did not stop there. He used this finding and his knowledge of electricity and invented the lightning rod to protect people's homes and churches from being burned down by lightning. Instead of acknowledging Franklin's contribution his invention created some serious controversies for some time.

Many people in Benjamin Franklin's days used to believe that thunder storms and lightning bolts were acts of God, to discipline sinners and to teach them important lessons. Some also believe that lightening strike trees where devils take refuge. Others believed Satan, his demons and witches tried to destroy God's holy churches and people's homes. Many resisted putting an iron rod above or next to the cross on the roof of a church.

The sacred explanations were vouched for by leading authorities of the day. Historians have written many books on Benjamin Franklin's life and his work and this controversy were described in many of them. This Lightning Rod controversy has become as famous as Benjamin Franklin's Kite experiment.

Franklin used his scientific knowledge to prove and solve this particular problem. USA and the world honour this great man for this and his other work. Frankliu's Kite experiment may look simple but his interpretation of the phenomenon has helped to solve a very complex problem by his invention of the Lightening Rod.

The question now is "how do we hope to produce some Benjamin Franklins from our midst?" How can we use modern science to help? Can we be less gullible, challenge some selected myths and refrain from taking too much for granted? Can we also try to be less cynical of other's ideas and concepts and give them the credit they deserve? Give our potential Benjamin Franklins a fair chance to participate in building our great society. We all have the right to demand this in a free society.

Lee Kum Tatt
19 May 2007

1 comment:

Ed Hird+ said...

Benjamin Franklin had a remarkable impact in so many ways,especially in the area of electricity and technology. A Benjamin Franklin article just received the ‘Top 100 Electricity Blogs’ Award