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Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  119 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
“Dray captures the genius and ingenuity of Franklin’s scientific thinking and then does something even more fascinating: He shows how science shaped his diplomacy, politics, and Enlightenment philosophy.”
–Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Today we think of Benjamin Franklin as a founder of American independence who also dabbled in science. But i
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 217)
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Wayland Smith
Jun 08, 2015 Wayland Smith rated it really liked it
Shelves: dc-challenge
A very well researched and entertainly written biography of Benjamin Franklin. I've always been interested in the American Revolution and the various leaders involved. This covers Franklin's life from his early days in Boston, settling in Philadelphia, and his time in England and France.

It's not a huge tome, so not everything is covered in huge detail, but nothing substantial is skipped. There's a lot of detail about Franklin's experiments with electricity, and the controversity around his light
Aug 25, 2012 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Carl really liked it. I slept through the middle but went back and finished it. Very educational but I don't need that much information. Franklin had lots of witty sayings, invented the lightning rod, wood stove, a musical instrument, and bifocals, was the first important man of his time to call for the end of slavery, and only had one wife. Probably because she wouldn't cross the Atlantic to join him in England or France.
Susan Morris
Jun 28, 2014 Susan Morris rated it it was amazing
Maybe I should be careful about giving so many books five stars, but when I love it, I love it. This is about Benjamin Franklin as a scientist and inventor, particularly his invention of the lightning rod, but that invention is depicted (convincingly) as a symbol of the Enlightenment. So many natural occurrences, such as disease and natural disasters, had, up to that time, been interpreted as acts of an angry God. Science turned the world around (though as we know, there remain many who refuse t ...more
Arthur Gershman
Nov 22, 2012 Arthur Gershman rated it it was amazing
A recently published book may be of some interest to the intellectual property community. "Stealing God's Thunder" details the history of Benjamin Franklin's invention of the lightning rod, and goes on to sketch Ben's role in the invention of the United States' system of government.

In a few places, the book touches on subjects which are of particular interest to the intellectual property professional.

Eschewing a patent, Franklin published a complete description of his lightning rod invention in
Aug 02, 2014 Chrismcginn rated it liked it
Benjamin Franklin as a scientist... With a focus on his work with electricity and development of the lightning rod. Apparently this was a way more significant and controversial invention then I realized. This is primarily b/c it represented man's attempts to thwart "acts of God" as it was seen at the time. Also notes his relationships with key Enlightenment figures in America and Europe. Interesting but a bit dense. Found myself skimming bits, but definitely a different perspective on a favorite ...more
Abby Goldsmith
This is one of the best biographies I've read, along with Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, and Columbus: The Four Voyages. I'm just assuming these books are historically accurate. But this one added quite a bit to my basic knowledge of Ben Franklin, including his personal opinions on the hot button political issues of his era, such as the Enlightenment, steam power versus electricity, and slavery.

Although he does spend a lot of time on Franklin’s lightning and electricity experiments, the book is much broader than the title suggests. Not a comprehensive biography, it focuses on his interest in science and the connection (maybe a bit tenuous) between his scientific curiosity, the Enlightenment in general and the development of American democracy. The last two do have a definite connection. Pretty good, and I learned more about lightning and how lightning rods work than I ever imagined I w ...more
Sep 14, 2010 Spazfungus rated it it was ok
While an interesting topic, the author manages to make it so dry, I could barely finish it. A notable goal of listing who why when where what influenced Franklin, it would have been better presented in a six-degrees chart. If you manage to read through it, you'll learn a few interesting tidbits (though truthfully I haven't gotten a chance to read other Franklin biographies, so these fun facts may not be new and may be better presented elsewhere)
Jun 14, 2012 Fred rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
The focus was on Franklin's scientific explorations and primarily his electricity & lightning experiments that were a major step forward in this part of the era of enlightenment. It was revealing how this was part of the whole creation of a broader scientific method, the interaction with religious forces, and finally its impact oin socal/political changes of humanism and democracy.
Dec 15, 2013 Bob rated it it was amazing
The effortless grace of Phil Dray's prose gives the impression he could write as engagingly on almost any topic. In this case, a biography of Ben Franklin as scientist rather than statesman incorporates lots of specifically interesting facts in the context of the Enlightenment, Deism and the conflict between science and religion that continues to divide American society.
Dec 26, 2009 Alex rated it it was ok
I listened to this book.

Do NOT listen to this book. The narrator is David Chandler and I don't know if it is his voice, his style, or the book itself (probably a combo of all three) but it was a chore to get through. I should have popped it out of the car and muddled through the actual book. It may have been better. It couldn't have been worse.
Mar 03, 2009 Pam rated it it was amazing
Not quite a biography of Ben Franklin, more a perspective on the 18th Century, the Enlightenment and the role Franklin played in ending the era of superstition and ignorance. Well worth reading, especially if you never quite got why the invention of the lightning rod was such a big deal.
Apr 30, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Excellent. Just what I like from my scientist biographies -- a picture of the culture in which the discovery grew, and why it was so revolutionary to the thinking of the time. Strongly recommended.
Aug 03, 2011 Craig rated it liked it
A bit more science history than I was aware of or planning on. But, at least now I can say that I know a lot more about Ben Franklin than I did before I started.

Time to get back to a good book of fiction.
Apr 19, 2010 Rita rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book about Ben Franklin. I didn’t realize all the things he invented and all the places he went. It was full of facts and a bit overwhelming at times.
Scott Meyer
May 21, 2009 Scott Meyer rated it really liked it
Great book about some of the early findings on how Ben Franlin helped launch the electronic age.
Fourth Grade
I learned that Benjami Frankklin made electtricity
May 30, 2009 Cheryl rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-works
Interesting study of Franklin's life.
May 08, 2011 Seamus is currently reading it
Just started it, so far its fun!
Nov 22, 2008 Apeel rated it it was amazing
really good
Jun 28, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book focused on Benjamin Franklin's contributions to the world of science, rather than politics. It was fascinating to me to learn just how much medieval notions of how nature worked dominated the world as late as the 1700's. He helped the world overcome superstitions.
Peter Zellner
Dec 08, 2012 Peter Zellner rated it it was amazing
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May 11, 2016
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Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award.

Lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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