By Philip Dray
“Dray captures the genius and ingenuity of Franklin’s clinical pondering after which does whatever much more attention-grabbing: He indicates how technological know-how formed his international relations, politics, and Enlightenment philosophy.”
–Walter Isaacson, writer of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Today we expect of Benjamin Franklin as a founding father of American independence who additionally dabbled in technological know-how. yet in Franklin’s day, the period of Enlightenment, lengthy ahead of he used to be an eminent statesman, he was once recognized for his innovative medical paintings. Pulitzer Prize finalist Philip Dray makes use of the evolution of Franklin’s medical interest and empirical considering as a metaphor for America’s fight to set up its basic values. He recounts how Franklin unlocked one of many maximum normal mysteries of his day, the probably unknowable powers of lightning and electrical energy. wealthy in historic aspect and in response to a variety of fundamental resources, Stealing God’s Thunder is an interesting unique examine certainly one of our so much loved and complicated founding fathers.
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Additional info for Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America
Even if this bolt struck without delay the iron bars atop Richmann’s home is doubtful, however it fell shut sufficient to ship a considerable electric strength down in the course of the roof to his measuring gadget. At that second, Richmann had the misfortune to be peering heavily on the motion of the mechanism, and “as he stood in that posture, an outstanding white and bluish hearth seemed among the rod of the electrometer and his head. ” His spouse, Sokolov, observed a “globe of blue hearth” as huge as his fist “jump from the rod of the gnomon in the direction of the pinnacle of the professor, which was once . . . at a few foot distance from the rod. ” Sokolov himself used to be knocked down by way of the blast, jumped up, and ran out of the home in a panic yet then back instantly to discover the gear in ruins and Richmann sitting in a crumpled posture on a close-by chest. The professor’s spouse, who had moved quickly into the room after the explosion to discover her husband “past sensation,” was once in tears, vainly pleading with him to evoke. the 1st guy to die from a lightning strike whereas learning lightning, Richmann himself turned the article of rapid scrutiny. “They opened a vein of the breathless physique two times, yet no blood followed,” Priestley wrote. “Upon turning the corpse with the face downwards, in the course of the rubbing, an inconsiderable volume of blood ran out of the mouth. There seemed a pink spot at the brow, from which lively a few drops of blood throughout the pores, with no wounding the surface. The shoe belonging to the left foot used to be burst open, and, uncovering the foot at that position, they discovered a blue mark; from which it was once concluded, that strength of the thunder, having entered the pinnacle, made its means out back on the foot. ” notice having speedy unfold via St. Petersburg of this most original fatality, the police have been compelled to station a protect open air to force away the curious. Priestley, writing years later, concluded that Richmann’s loss of life used to be “an enviable one,” on account that electrocution used to be considered painless, but additionally as the sufferer had perished in a type of consummation of his life’s ardour. but the speedy that means of Richmann’s loss of life, mentioned between philosophers throughout Europe, was once sincerely combined. It quietly superior the belief of Franklin’s braveness in having “tamed” lightning (obviously, Richmann had not), but additionally emboldened doubters like Nollet who stated it for example of why attracting bolts of electrical energy with a lightning rod was once no longer a good suggestion, even though Nollet overlooked to say that Richmann were killed experimenting with an gear varied from a thoroughly grounded lightning rod. Nollet additionally looked as if it would deliberately misconstrue the physics concerned through asking why, if pointed rods may well safeguard structures from lightning, the iron crosses atop many church buildings couldn't practice an identical functionality. the reply used to be that, as those crosses weren't grounded, they attracted lightning yet provided no solution to shepherd it adequately to the floor. Franklin addressed this factor in a paragraph he extra to an English newspaper account of Richmann’s dying that he released within the Gazette in 1754, noting that “the new Doctrine of Lightning,” i.