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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

. An Electrical World

. An Electrical World

(p.161) 8. An Electrical World
Draw the Lightning Down

Michael Brian Schiffer

University of California Press

This chapter addresses how earth scientists used electrical technology for investigating terrestrial and atmospheric processes. It also presents an account of their major research activities and discusses how electrical technology underwent changes in their hands. The chapter considers Benjamin Franklin and his kite. Franklin's small book on electricity, with its plan for the sentry-box experiment, attracted the interest of the great French naturalist the comte de Buffon. Georg Wilhelm Richmann was one of the first to undertake systematic studies of atmospheric electricity. Franklin concluded that atmospheric electricity could be either positive or negative, though more often it was the latter. Tiberius Cavallo's electrometer designs were widely adopted. He specifically invented an “electrometer for the rain.” In the nineteenth century, new research, for example in geology and chemistry, eliminated electricity as a cause of earthquakes and volcanoes, and greatly diminished its role in the functioning of aqueous meteors.

Keywords:   electrical technology, terrestrial process, atmospheric electricity, Benjamin Franklin, Georg Wilhelm Richman, Tiberius Cavallo, electrometer designs

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