Top 10 Ben Franklin Inventions


The Lightning Rod

Lightning was a supernatural scourge to the wooden cities of the 18th century. Churches were particularly susceptible, since they were often the tallest structures around, and a single electrical storm was known to lay waste to buildings across entire regions. In Franklin's lifetime, a bolt of lightning even killed 3,000 people in Italy after it struck a church basement packed with gunpowder. Aside from fervent praying, no one knew how to protect buildings from this "electrical fire."

Franklin retired from the publishing business at 42 to work full time on electrical experiments. After countless hours spent tinkering with static electricity, Franklin figured that if a metal rod could be fixed to the top of a building and wired to the ground with a cable, it could gently extract the "fire" from a cloud before it had a chance to do any damage.

Franklin sent news of his protective rod across the Atlantic, where it was first adopted in the churches and cathedrals of the French countryside.

Related Articles


  • Fox, Catherine Clark. "Second Time Around." Feb. 1, 2007. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Franklin, Ben. "An Address to the Public from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage." Nov. 9, 1789. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • "Join, or Die' -- the Political Cartoon by Benjamin Franklin." July 24, 2003. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Benjamin Franklin House. "Group visits." (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary. "Library chair with folding steps, 1760-1780." (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary. "Odometer, ca. 1763." (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Bowman, Jake. "Ben Franklin, P2P Pioneer." April 2002. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Conradt, Stacy. "History of the U.S.: A Ridiculously Long and Incomplete List of Things Ben Franklin Invented." Sept.28, 2010. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Franklin, Benjamin. "An Economical Project." 1784. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Golden, Frederic. "When Sparks Flew." June 29, 2003. (Jan. 21, 2011).
  • Independence Hall Association. "Benjamin Franklin Timeline." (Jan. 24, 2011)
  • Lemay, J.A. Leo. "Ben Franklin -- facts and fallacies." University of Delaware. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Lemelson-MIT Program. "The Franklin Stove." (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Lemisch, L. Jesse. "Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings." Penguin, 1961.
  • National Academy of Sciences. "Switchable electro-optic diffractive lens with high efficiency for ophthalmic applications." April 5, 2006. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • PBS. "Celebrity." (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • PBS. "It's the little things." (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Rakov, Vladimir A. Uman, Martin A. "Lightning: Physics and Effects." Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • University of Virginia. "A Brief History of Political Cartoons." (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • United States Postal Service. "Benjamin Franklin." February 2003. (Jan. 21, 2011)
  • Van Hemert, Kyle. "Benjamin Franklin's Most Enduring Inventions." Jan. 18, 2011 (January 21, 2011)


Who Was Rube Goldberg, and What Are His Contraptions?

Who Was Rube Goldberg, and What Are His Contraptions?

Rube Goldberg made one-of-a-kind contraptions. HowStuffWorks looks at the man and his machines.