Photo CC BY-ND 2.0 Mike Behnken
On May 10, 1752, the world would change forever. This was during the Age of Enlightenment, when scientific knowledge was rapidly expanding. But in the middle of the 18th century, science was still seen as a hobby for the curious gentleman and not an endeavor which could improve human existance. Today, of course, we take it for granted that new scientific discoveries will soon lead to new inventions that change our lives.
That all changed due to the experiments of French scientist Thomas-François Dalibard. Dalibard had been very interested in the work of an American scientist whose works he had translated and published earlier in the year. And so, in a high open plain at Marly-la-Ville, just outside Paris, he set up an experimental apparatus based upon the American's designs. It consisted of an 40 foot long round iron bar about an inch in diameter. The rod was raised perpendicular to the ground and supported with thin silk cords.
Dalibard himself was not present on the afternoon May 10 when a thunderstorm passed over Marly-la-Ville. But he had left an assistant and the local priest in charge to make observations. They noted that when the storm passed over, lightning struck the iron bar, but nowhere else in the village. The American was right: an iron rod could be used to create a path to ground for lightning to follow, protecting buildings from being struck.
The invention was the lightning rod. The American inventor was, of course, Benjamin Franklin.
With the lightning rod, man had finally learned to control one of the most feared, dangerous, and random forces of nature. Modern science had proven its usefulness.
When lightning rods first came into use, many objected to them on religious grounds. Franklin, ever the rationalist, saw things differently. He wrote: "Surely the Thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the Rain, Hail, or Sunshine of Heaven, against the Inconvenience of which we guard by Roofs and Shades without Scruple."
Benjamin Franklin had not only developed an effective defense against lightning by using scientific knowledge, but he had also changed the way we view science itself.
Detail from Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky by Benjamin West, 1816
From May 8th through May 10th, to celebrate the 265th anniversary of the first lightning rod, Big Blue Saw will be having a sale to help modern day Franklins, engineers, artists, and makers. On these 3 days, every online order for waterjet cut custom parts in aluminum 6061 at 3/8 inch thickness (that's 0.375 inches or 9.5mm) will automatically receive our quantity discount. Depending on the design, this can mean savings up to 75%!
Aluminum 6061 is strong, lightweight, weldable, and corrosion resistant. Our customers have used it for custom bearing blocks, brackets, signs, robot chassis, wheels, and fine art.
And, by the way, aluminum is also a great conductor of electricity for those of you who might be designing your own lightning rods.
Get started on your history-making invention by uploading your design to our online quoting and ordering system now.