Stealing God's Thunder by Philip Dray
Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America

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“We forget, living in this era of heavily patented research and closely guarded results, how wonderfully exciting the scientific world used to be. In Stealing God’s Thunder, the story of Benjamin Franklin’s invention of the lightening rod and the resulting consequences, that sense of wonder and excitement and even fear comes beautifully to life. Philip Dray does a remarkable job of illuminating the ever-fascinating Franklin and, more than that, the way that he, and his invention, helped create the new scientific world.”
–Deborah Blum, author of Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection

Stealing God’s Thunder is a concise, richly detailed biography of Benjamin Franklin viewed through the lens of his scientific inquiry and its ramifications for American democracy. Today we think of Benjamin Franklin as a founder of American independence who also dabbled in science. But in Franklin’s day it was otherwise. Long before he was an eminent statesman, he was famous for his revolutionary scientific work, especially his experiments with lightning and electricity.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Philip Dray uses the evolution of Franklin’s scientific curiosity and empirical thinking as a metaphor for America’s struggle to establish its fundamental values. Set against the backdrop of the Enlightenment and America’s pursuit of political equality for all, Stealing God’s Thunder recounts how Franklin unlocked one of the greatest natural mysteries of his day, the seemingly unknowable powers of electricity and lightning. Rich in historic detail and based on numerous primary sources, Stealing God’s Thunder is a fascinating original look at one of our most beloved and complex founding fathers.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Philip Dray

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PHILIP DRAY is the author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and made him a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, and the coauthor of the New York Times Notable Book We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi. He lives in Brooklyn.
Published August 2, 2005 by Random House. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Yes, he actually flew that kite, and his greatest invention, the lightning rod, occasioned great debates about humankind’s audacious interference with God’s judgments.

Jun 15 2005 | Read Full Review of Stealing God's Thunder: Benja...

Publishers Weekly

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Ben Franklin's invention of the lightning rod and his revelation of the mysterious workings of lightning and thunder made him one of the foremost scientists of his day.

May 23 2005 | Read Full Review of Stealing God's Thunder: Benja...

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