Bringing Innovations to Fruition
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Elisha Heart

Our Legacy

"ThunderHouse" traces its heritage to the greatest of all American innovators, Benjamin Franklin, and an all-important innovation he brought to fruition. Franklin created the postal system, the lending library, the first fire department, the Franklin stove, and discovered the connection between lightning and electricity. His focus was the practical application of science to solving everyday problems and making peoples' lives better.

In the mid-1700s, Franklin applied what he learned from his kite-flying experiments to the invention of the lightning rod, to prevent the destruction of buildings and lives. But as with many innovations, before and after, Franklin could not sell the concept: lightning was considered a divine act and interfering with it was sacrilege. Franklin was undeterred.

He developed a brilliant "demo" to communicate the benefit of his lightning rod and break the barriers to its acceptance. He built a "ThunderHouse" - a three-dimensional wooden model house, equipped with a lightning rod, hinged walls and a detachable roof. Inside, Franklin placed a small charge of gunpowder.

When an electric charge was applied to the lightning rod, electricity would pass safely through the rod and grounding wire to the earth with no effect. However, when a wooden block was positioned to break the grounding circuit, a spark across the block would ignite the gunpowder with convincing and entertaining effects - the roof and walls literally blew off!

The barriers to bringing innovations to fruition are even greater and more complex today than they were in Franklin's day. And today's ThunderHouse leads innovators through these barriers to success.