Lightning Rod History
There are many authors who refer to the lightning rod as “the son of the kite” when they talk about its history. This son-of-the-kite concept was due to a particularly rainy day, in which the American Wiseman Benjamin Franklin was flying his kite, a rage hit it and immediately destroyed it. This experience aroused in Franklin a great interest around how to protect houses and people from electric discharges from the sky, until finally, he would invent the lightning rod.
As evident, the principle of the invention requires a study of electrical phenomena, a passion that Benjamin Franklin had at a young age. Franklin, considered as one of the fathers of the American homeland, first formulated the principle of conservation of electricity, and then, in 1752 formulated some principles of the electric nature of lightning; knowledge that undoubtedly, together with the verification of the power of metal tips, would serve him to finish the design of his preventive device.
The lightning rod invented by Benjamin Franklin consisted of a device for the protection of buildings against atmospheric electrical discharges, and contrary to what its name indicates, it is designed to attract the discharge and carry it to the ground. Franklin’s lightning rod consisted of three fundamental parts:
- An iron rod 5 to 10 m long, whose upper end had a copper or platinum tip, which is mounted on the highest part of the building.
- An electrically conductive system, which is constituted essentially by iron bars or copper cables.
- An electric dissipater, this can be the extension of the conductive element and that, anchored to the ground, has the purpose of dissipating the electric discharge in the ground, protecting its environment.
It can be concluded that Franklin’s invention was a consequence of his studies about static electricity, whose nature encouraged the scientific community to look for methods of producing it.
In 1919, there was an important event in the history of the modern lightning rod. Nikola Tesla redefined the operating principles of Franklin’s invention, refuting the theories expressed by Benjamin and patenting a new design. Since then, the production of lightning rods has become widespread, thanks to the important contribution of Tesla, and yet, using the same physical operating principles studied by Franklin.