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Draw the Lightning DownBenjamin Franklin and Electrical Technology in the Age of Enlightenment$
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Michael Brian Schiffer

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520238022

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520238022.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 26 July 2021

. Visionary Inventors

. Visionary Inventors

(p.226) 11. Visionary Inventors
Draw the Lightning Down

Michael Brian Schiffer

University of California Press

This chapter addresses a number of electrical products devised by the Enlightenment community of visionary inventors. The electric orrery was simply a clever device for showing that electricity could produce rotary motion. The Franklin motor demonstrated that electrostatic forces could produce nontrivial mechanical effects. It is suggested that the electric ignition of internal combustion engines, and perhaps the engines themselves, had their beginnings in eighteenth-century electrostatic technology. Since the 1740s, lecturers had used the mechanical effects of electricity to produce sound. The case of telegraphy brings into sharp relief the obstacles faced by inventors working on electrical systems at the dawn of the nineteenth century. Franklin and his friends bequeathed to Thomas Edison and other nineteenth-century workers fundamental scientific principles and terminology, a plethora of technological effects, many fascinating devices and product ideas, and the fervent and infectious belief that electrical science and technology could create a better world.

Keywords:   visionary inventors, Enlightenment community, Franklin motor, electric orrery, telegraphy, electrical science, electric ignition, electrical systems

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