FOOD FOR THOUGHT: They thought about grounding in 1749

In 1750, most houses had only been using glass windows for about 100 years. Forget about computers, smartphones, or even cars — most of the stuff we take for granted like paper clips, ball point pens and zippers wouldn’t be invented for 100 years or more. Indoor plumbing? Forget about it.

That’s what makes it most incredible that the modern art of grounding was invented in 1749. Before that, people just sort of figured lightning was going to strike where it was going to strike, and you were just out of luck if you were there when it happened. This was, to say the least, a minor inconvenience when most homes were made of wood.

It was Benjamin Franklin who proved that putting a metal rod at the top of your house with a wire running into the ground would protect you from lightning strikes. It’s impossible to even explain what a massive thing this was at the time. The frenzy surrounding the lightning rod was something like the way people first took to smartphones, but maybe 10 times bigger. Heck, people started wearing lightning rod hats because they thought the technology was so cool.

Of course way back then Ben didn’t realize that one day, every house would be wired with an antenna or satellite dish, and didn’t realize that those are excellent lightning rods too. Grounding is a little bit more complex than it was then, but the principle is still the same: keep the electricity outside and keep your house safe.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.