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Franklin-designed Lightning Rod Saves Historic Maryland Building

  • VOA News

An undated sketch of Benjamin Franklin — inventor, scientist, diplomat and signer of U.S. Constitution. Franklin designed the lightning rod atop Maryland's State House.

An undated sketch of Benjamin Franklin — inventor, scientist, diplomat and signer of U.S. Constitution. Franklin designed the lightning rod atop Maryland's State House.

The governor of the U.S. state of Maryland is crediting a lightning rod designed more than 200 years ago by one of America's most revered founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, with averting a fire at Maryland's historic State House.

The rod on the dome of the State House in Annapolis was hit by lightning Friday evening, sending huge bolt of electricity harmlessly to ground. Fire officials said that the jolt triggered a sprinkler system installed in the dome of the 244-year-old facility, but that there was no fire.

Governor Larry Hogan, at home in the nearby governor's mansion, said he ran across the street to view the scene immediately after the strike.

He later wrote on Facebook that the lightning rod was "constructed and grounded to Franklin's exact specifications." He also described the pointed lightning rod atop the building, which served briefly in the 1780s as the nation's capitol, as a "powerful symbol of the independence and ingenuity of our young nation."

Franklin, who died in 1790 at age 84, has sometimes been referred to as "the first American" for his early and strenuous campaigning for colonial unity. The multitalented Franklin also distinguished himself as a scientist, political theorist, mathematician, inventor, diplomat, printer and author.

His research in the 1750s led him to design 2.4- to 3-meter-long rods that soon protected many buildings and homes of the day from lightning strikes.

His design for the Maryland State House led to what historians describe as the largest lightning rod ever attached to a colonial-era building: an 8.5-meter pointed rod that is thought to have saved the day more than two centuries later.

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