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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 10 June 2013

Ben Franklin kiteOn this day in 1752, Ben Franklin conducted an experiment which has grown into legend. As with so much of history, it happened a bit differently than we’re told. Franklin hypothesized that lightning was a form of electricity. His method of proving this was originally church steeple but he then opted to go fly a kite. It was a handmade kite consisting of a large silk handkerchief and two cross-sticks, as well as a metal key tied to the kite’s string. Franklin and his son William (then age 21, not a young child as illustrations often portray) proceeded into a field with a nearby shed for protection. The two had to wait “a considerable time” before the kite was electrified. Franklin “observed some loose threads of the hempen string to stand erect, and to avoid one another, just as if they had been suspended on a common conductor.” He then touched his knuckle to the key and received confirmation of its electric quality. 1

Franklin kite experiment

John MorganOne notable birthday on this day in 1735, that of John Morgan. Morgan was a pioneer of medical education in the U.S., co-founding the first medical school in the country at the College of Philadelphia, now University of Pennsylvania. In 1775, Congress appointed Morgan the director-general of the army’s hospital in Boston. Morgan’s job as director of the army hospital was an immense task. He faced an outbreak of smallpox, shortage of supplies, logistical challenges, and a Congress that lacked the understanding of health issues necessary to support him fully in his role. Morgan’s former partner turned rival, William Shippen, helped to point the blame squarely on Morgan and have him unseated as director. However, Morgan had the last word, as he convinced Congress to formally charge Shippen with fraud and speculation in hospital supplies, for which Shippen was court-martialed and subsequently resigned. By this time Morgan was in poor health and did not return to medicine. 2

 

1 “An Account of Kite Experiment,” The Electric Ben Franklin, www.ushistory.org/Franklin/info/kite.htm
2 “John Morgan,” Penn Biographies, Penn University Archives & Records Center, www.archives.upenn.edu/people/1700s/morgan_john.html

 

 

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