Pat Shingleton: "The First Lightning Rod!"
Ben Franklin invented the Franklin stove, bifocals and suggested daylight saving time in 1783. As noted in a previous column, his first experiment didn't involve a kite but whether electricity and ligtning had exact characteristics. To test whether the clouds were electrified, he proposed placing a manned sentry box on top of a high tower, holding a wire loop connected to an iron rod pointing 20 to 30 feet into the storm clouds. Franklin never executed the experiment, but French academic Thomas Daliband did in 1752. He placed a 40-foot iron rod on top of a wooden pallet, insulated from the ground with wine bottles. A storm approached, the brass wires were connected to the tower, and sparks erupted from the rod - the first lightning rod.