Lightning Rod Demonstration

Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen


During storms, electrical charges in the clouds separate, positive charges moving upward and negative charges moving downward. The mass of negative charge induces a positive charge on the ground below it. Because opposing charges attract, sometimes an electrical current is induced between the negative charge in the cloud and the positive charge in the ground. The electrical energy is so intense and travels so quickly that it causes a flash of lighting. Before Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1752, there was a serious danger that lightning would strike a house and cause a fire. This invention completely changed our relationship with lightning. The lightning rod intercepts the electrical charges in lightning and directs them to the ground. It channels the energy of the lightning so that it dissipates into the ground.

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