How was electricity used as a form of entertainment?

In the mid-1700s demonstrations of electrostatics were extremely popular, especially in Parisian salons, where wealthy men and women gathered to discuss events of the day. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a popular guest. In Stephen Gray’s most famous demonstration, called the Flying Boy experiment, a boy was suspended horizontally using two silk threads hung from hooks placed on the ceiling. When a charged tube was held near his foot, pieces of metal foil were attracted to his face and to his outstretched hands.

Louis-Guilliaume le Monnier discharged a Leyden jar through a chain of 140 courtiers in the presence of the King of France. Jean-Antoine Nollet (1700-1770) attempted to measure the speed of electricity by having a line of monks 1 kilometer (3,280 feet) long hold hands. The monks at the ends of the line touched a machine that produced charge. They all jumped simultaneously when they felt the painful shock, so he concluded that electricity moved instantaneously.


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