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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index K > Category: Kite

Kite Quotes (2 quotes)

As every circumstance relating to so capital a discovery as this (the greatest, perhaps, that has been made in the whole compass of philosophy, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton) cannot but give pleasure to all my readers, I shall endeavour to gratify them with the communication of a few particulars which I have from the best authority. The Doctor [Benjamin Franklin], after having published his method of verifying his hypothesis concerning the sameness of electricity with the matter lightning, was waiting for the erection of a spire in Philadelphia to carry his views into execution; not imagining that a pointed rod, of a moderate height, could answer the purpose; when it occurred to him, that, by means of a common kite, he could have a readier and better access to the regions of thunder than by any spire whatever. Preparing, therefore, a large silk handkerchief, and two cross sticks, of a proper length, on which to extend it, he took the opportunity of the first approaching thunder storm to take a walk into a field, in which there was a shed convenient for his purpose. But dreading the ridicule which too commonly attends unsuccessful attempts in science, he communicated his intended experiment to no body but his son, who assisted him in raising the kite.
The kite being raised, a considerable time elapsed before there was any appearance of its being electrified. One very promising cloud passed over it without any effect; when, at length, just as he was beginning to despair of his contrivance, he 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. Struck with this promising appearance, he inmmediately presented his knuckle to the key, and (let the reader judge of the exquisite pleasure he must have felt at that moment) the discovery was complete. He perceived a very evident electric spark. Others succeeded, even before the string was wet, so as to put the matter past all dispute, and when the rain had wetted the string, he collected electric fire very copiously. This happened in June 1752, a month after the electricians in France had verified the same theory, but before he had heard of any thing that they had done.
The History and Present State of Electricity, with Original Experiments (1767, 3rd ed. 1775), Vol. 1, 216-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Cloud (44)  |  Conductor (8)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Electrician (3)  |  Electricity (121)  |  Fire (117)  |  France (21)  |  Benjamin Franklin (81)  |  Hypothesis (227)  |  Key (38)  |  Lightning (28)  |  Philadelphia (3)  |  Spark (18)  |  Spire (4)  |  String (17)  |  Theory (582)  |  Thunder (11)  |  Verification (20)

It is impossible not to feel stirred at the thought of the emotions of man at certain historic moments of adventure and discovery—Columbus when he first saw the Western shore, Pizarro when he stared at the Pacific Ocean, Franklin when the electric spark came from the string of his kite, Galileo when he first turned his telescope to the heavens. Such moments are also granted to students in the abstract regions of thought, and high among them must be placed the morning when Descartes lay in bed and invented the method of co-ordinate geometry.
Quoted in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), Vol. 1, 239.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstract (43)  |  Adventure (36)  |  Christopher Columbus (13)  |  Renι Descartes (43)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Electricity (121)  |  Emotion (62)  |  Benjamin Franklin (81)  |  Galileo Galilei (101)  |  Heaven (118)  |  Invention (283)  |  Moment (61)  |  Pacific Ocean (3)  |  Shore (11)  |  Spark (18)  |  String (17)  |  Student (131)  |  Telescope (74)  |  Thought (374)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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