The One Where Ben Franklin Electrocutes a Turkey

By Brett Israel
Nov 26, 2009 8:23 PMNov 20, 2019 1:00 AM


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And now, a cautionary yarn to keep in mind this Thanksgiving. Even great amateur scientist/polymaths like Ben Franklin can have turkey-related mishaps, according to the Annals of Improbable Research:

In December 1750, Franklin learned one lesson the hard way, when he shocked himself while trying to electrocute a holiday turkey. Franklin believed electrocuting the turkey made it uncommonly tender. When he began his electrical experiments in about 1745, Franklin had already retired from his printing business, which was good, because he soon became so absorbed in the experiments he had little time for anything else. “I never was before engaged in any study that so totally engrossed my attention and my time, as this has lately done,” Franklin wrote to his English friend Peter Collinson in a letter thanking him for the gift of a Leyden jar with directions for charging it.

This turkey tale appeared a few years ago in the American Physical Society, as part of their This Month In Physics series. To avoid shocking yourself, read, memorize, and dutifully follow DISCOVER's list of (safe and) hi-tech ways to cook and store this year's bird. Related Content: Discoblog: Cooking the Perfect Turkey–With Science! Discoblog: Thanksgiving Dinner in Space! Discoblog: How to Build a Whizbang Chicken Plucker From a Washing Machine Discoblog: Thanksgiving for Fish: Food Chemicals Go Through People & Back Into Water Supply DISCOVER: Think Tech: 4 Hi-Tech Ways to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner—and Store the Leftovers Image:

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