Many years ago, a man was flying a kite. He was a quirky man. For which man would think of combining outlandish ideas with the rather straight forward and simple activity of kite flying?
This man did. And history rewarded him with, I dare say, gratuitous, and in my horribly politically wrong opinion, glory.
I am beginning to realize that the Modus Operandi of this man was rather simple and, brace yourself – this is going to be an oft-repeated word in this post, outlandish. He tried irrelevant, unrelated, bizzare combinations of odd activities and things to arrive at inventions.
Take Kite flying. A rather simple, straight forward pastime for many. Here in India we even have a structured ‘Tyohaar’ around kite flying. And for generations we have done it like normal people would – flying kites and getting a kick out of simply flying kites, certainly not getting outlandish or quirky with the activity.
But this man, he did. He couldn’t simply just fly a kite. He had to make the pursuit outlandish. He dipped the twine first in milk, and then flew the kite. Nothing noteworthy happened.
So he dipped it in honey. Flew the kite. Again, nothing.
And then dipped the sad twine in wine and flew the kite again. And then in milk, honey and wine and then flew the kite.
Then he tried flying the kite with nothing else but just a pair of socks on. Later with just one bare foot. He even tied the twine around his toe and jumped into a lake to see if the airborne kite would transport him across to the other end – this is recorded, btw.
Then he tried flying the kite wearing a pumpkin head-gear (chop the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds from one half and turn it upside down on your head – Voila! Your own personalized pumpkin head-gear is ready!). But BF, being one of our most famous inventors, had a head packed with more gray matter than normal heads, which is why he was an inventor par excellence. He invented things as routinely as we eat Chaat. And for the same reason he wasted several pumpkins, for in order to accommodate all the extra gray cells, he had an oversized head. In the pursuit of finding the right size of head-gear, he had to deal with several sizes of pumpkins and wasted a lot of time, not to mention money, before he could find the right fit for his head. By then monsoon was approaching. Although he wasn’t able to hit on any invention for the longest time, he kept on.
And then the quirky man came up with the most bizarre and outlandish thing any one could have come up with – the thought of sliding in a key around the twine.
A key! A key!!!!??? Why!! How!???? Who would ever think of sliding a key around the twine. It could have well been a ring, a tap, table, a book, or even a cow for goodness sakes.
But tried as he did, it was impossible to slip it inside, for the kite was bigger than the loop in the key. So after a few weeks, with sore arms and a very airborne kite, while he was about to melt the key, he realized that a twine has the tendency to always have two ends. And that’s when the thought of the simpler idea of slipping the key in from the other end of the twine occured to him. And he slipped it in with delight.
And then it struck him. Actually two things struck him.
The first was a bolt of lightening, owing to the conducting key around a twine attached to an airborne kite.
The other was his wife.
“I should have you arrested for this. You’ve been out of the house with that stupid kite for 4 months. Theres hardly anything to eat. And if I was any cruel, I’d have wished that bolt of lightening had a better effect on you. And I ought to have the lightening arrested too for letting you off so easily!”
And that’s how with the invention of the lightening arrester, the story of electricity was born. Theres huge debate on whether BF invented electricity. Oh theres a bigger debate whether anyone INVENTED electricity at all, for it was always there, and could have only been discovered.
But the general opinion seems to be that BF at best invented the Lightening Arrester, although I happen to believe his wife should be given the credit for it.
Benjamin Franklin has an incredible track record. He truly has been active all his life right till the age of 84. He is arguably one of the most active scientific minds the history of mankind has ever known. And thankfully to my advantage, he was also regarded as a humorist. Andthats one reason I took the liberty of talking about him in such a tone. I dont wear a hat, but I could buy one so I could truly do it and mean it when I say, “Hats off to you Ben!”
A snapshot of the roles he played along his long, eventful life
A:Abolitionist Almanac maker Advertiser B: Balloon enthusiast Bifocals inventor C: Composer Cartoonist Civic Citizen Chess Player D: Deist Diplomat Daylight Savings advocate E: Enlightenment thinker Electricity pioneer Experimenter Entrepreneur F: Founding Father Flirt Fire fighter G: Glass Armonica creator Gulf Stream mapper Genius H: Humorist Health nut I: Inventor International celebrity Insurer J: Junto creator Journalist K: Kite flyer L: Librarian Lightning rod inventor Londoner M: Medical Engineer Militia member Mathematician Mason N: Natural philosopher O: Organizer (militia, fire dept., street cleaning) Odometer maker P: Printer Public relations master Publisher Prankster Q: Questioner Quartermaster Quintessential American R: Revolutionary Reader S: Scientist Swimmer Self-made man T: Traveler Treaty signer U: University builder V: Volunteer Visionary Vegetarian (temporarily) W: Writer Weight lifter X: Xenophile Y: Young prodigy Yankee Yarn spinner Z: Zealot