Benjamin Franklin's Inventions and Experiments: Key Resources

Benjamin Franklin is one of the world’s most influential people. Other than being a writer and a politician, he was also a hero of Colonial America, helping the country gain her freedom. Franklin was also a brilliant inventor. His experiments and inventions led to the discovery – and eventually harnessing – of electricity.



Bifocals are basically eyeglasses that are designed so that they have separate optical powers. They are for people who have different types of eye issues like astigmatism. Bifocals are especially useful for those who are both near-sighed and far sighted. As there are two separate lenses, people don’t have to switch pairs of glasses all the time to see.

Map of Gulf Stream

Franklin was the one who gave the Gulf Stream its name in 1762. From 1969 to 1970, he and Timothy Folger plotted a course through the stream. They did it so that British mail carriers would stop traveling the more dangerous areas of the stream. This also helped speed up British mail delivery to the colonies.

Daylight Savings Time

Daylights savings time is the shifting of a hemisphere’s clocks an hour forward or an hour back, depending on the season. This is done so that people can make better use of the changing amount of daylight. In 1784, Franklin published an essay called An Economical Project whilst in Paris. His idea for making better use of daylight spawned William Willet’s own essay that proposed moving clocks ahead and eventually the process was put into effect.

  • Daylight Savings Time: Explains DST in detail. Discusses about why it’s necessary and the changes that have been made since its inception.
  • About DST: Another site with descriptions of DST and when certain places observe it.
  • Franklin's Essay: A place where you can read part of Franklin’s essay about DST.
  • Ideas and Discoveries: DST: Discusses many of his inventions, including DST.


Kite Experiment

In June of 1752, Franklin decided to fly a kite on a stormy afternoon. He attached the kite to a silk string and tied an iron key at the end of the string. Then, he tied a metal wire to that key and inserted it into a Leyden jar, a jar capable of holding electrical charge. After he put the kite into the air, a thunder cloud passed over it and the cloud’s negative charge transferred to the kite. As he was holding the silk ribbon, Franklin wasn’t affected until he tried to touch the key. Then, he received a shock.

Lightning Bells Experiment

In September of 1752, Franklin put up two pointed iron rods with bells on top that were supposed to draw electricity. When electricity was present in the air, the rods would attract some of it and cause the bells to jingle. The bells would jingle sometimes only once or sometimes very rapidly and he used this to determine how much electricity was in the air.

Coined Terms

Ben Franklin coined countless terms now associated with electricity. Examples include words like plasma, precipitation, patent, positive and negative, uncharged, wind energy, and even electrode. All of these are terms he invented. He even coined the term battery.

  • Drinker's Dictionary: Excerpts from Franklin’s Drinker’s Dictionary, a 228 phrase list that describes drunkenness.
  • Batter Leyden Jar: Explains the battery Leyden jar; the term batter was coined by Franklin.
  • Franklin Terms: Discusses his most famous terms and phrases.
  • Franklin and Terms: Provides links with information about such subjects like what terms Franklin coined in his long life.

Positive and Negative Charge, Battery, Electric Shock, Conductor, Condenser, Electrician

Positive and negative charges are electrical charges. Positive charges attract negative charges and vice versa. Conductors are basically any kind of material that allows a flow of electricity to pass through it. Condensers are special heat transfer devices that are used to condense water vapor into liquid. Electricians are people who are familiar with electricity and how it works. They are the ones who can repair broken wiring and install dangerous equipment.

  • Electric Charge: Defines positive and negative charges.
  • Conductors: Discusses about conductors and what materials make good ones.
  • The Condenser: Discusses the invention of the first condenser.
  • Electricians: A look at a typical electrician’s career.