All that was known about electricity in the mid-eighteenth century was that there were two kinds of it: playful static and deadly lightning. Benjamin Franklin was the first scientist to begin serious electrical experiments (in 1746). He was also the first to suspect that static and lightning were two forms of the same thing.
Franklin had been experimenting with Leyden jars—large glass jars, partially filled with water and wrapped with tin foil both inside and out. A rod extended through an insulating cork out the top of the jar to a metal knob. Once a Leyden jar was charged with a hand crank, anyone who grabbed the knob got a resounding shock.
Franklin found ways to more than double the amount of electricity his Leyden jars carried, and he invented a…
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