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The National MagLab is funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of Florida.

1750 - 1774

With his famous kite experiment and other forays into science, Benjamin Franklin advances knowledge of electricity, inspiring his English friend Joseph Priestley to do the same.


  • Steel magnets
  • John Michell, an English geologist, publishes A Treatise on Artificial Magnets, which describes how to make strong steel magnets and gives an account of his discovery of the inverse-square law for the attractive and repulsive forces of magnets.


  • Aurora borealis
  • Perh Vilhelm Margentin writes a letter to the Swedish Academy of Sciences in which he comments on the effect of the aurora borealis on a magnetized needle.


  • Franklin's electricity
  • Leyden JarBenjamin Franklin's letters to a colleague are published as Experiments and Observations on Electricity. The work includes Franklin’s views on positive and negative charges, the use of pointed conductors, improvements to the Leyden jar and a detailed plan for his famous kite experiment.


  • Kite experiment
  • Leyden JarThe connection between lightning and electricity is proven when Benjamin Franklin’s plan to collect the charge from a storm cloud into a Leyden jar with a key attached to a kite is successfully completed.


  • Mathematical magnets
  • Franz Aepinus, a German natural philosopher, publishes his Tentamen Theoriae Electricitatis et Magnetismi (“An Attempt at a Theory of Electricity and Magnetism”), the first book to consider electricity and magnetism in terms of mathematics.


  • Tongue tests
  • Alessandro VoltaJohann Sulzer, a Swiss physicist living in Berlin, conceives and carries out an experiment that involves placing two dissimilar metals in his mouth so that they touch one another, producing a strange sensation in the tongue. This was essentially the first tongue test of a battery, and was repeated by many other scientists, including Alessandro Volta.


  • Electrophorus
  • ElectrophorusSwedish physicist Johannes Wilcke invents a simple apparatus for producing substantial amounts of electric charge, which would later come to be known as the electrophorus.


  • Law of force
  • Joseph Priestley, an English pastor and science enthusiast, deduces that the law of force between electric charges must be the same as Newton’s inverse-square law for gravitational force. His History and Present State of Electricity is released, in which all data available in the field at the time is reviewed.


  • Magnetic inclination
  • Johannes Wilcke compiles and publishes the first magnetic inclination chart that includes measurements from around the globe.