Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod

TUE, JAN 17, 2006 (59:17)

Philip Dray uses the story of Franklin’s wild experiments and his battles with his vehement detractors as a metaphor for America’s struggle for democracy and the establishment of our fundamental democratic values. Long before Benjamin Franklin was an eminent statesman and a father of American democracy, he was famous for being a revolutionary scientist, most notably for his experiments with lightning and electricity. But Franklin had many powerful doubters who were troubled by his presumption in denying God his favorite weapon of resentment. For as long as anyone could remember, all the way back to Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, one of the gods’ privileges had been the ability to hurl thunderbolts to punish the misdeeds of mortals. Philip Dray is the author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Prize and the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

+ BIO: Philip Dray

Philip Dray has been a contributor to The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The New York Post, and Mother Jones. From 1994-2000 he was a staff writer at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He has been an adjunct faculty member at the New School, teaching an undergraduate course, “The History of the Civil Rights Movement.” Dray is a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, and has been a Visiting Scholar at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from the University of Minnesota, with a concentration in American Studies, and is a veteran of workshops in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota and Harvard University. Philip Dray is the author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and made him a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, and the coauthor of the New York Times Notable Book We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi. He lives in Brooklyn.

Partner
Old South Meeting House
Series
Benjamin Franklin Series
Our Democracy Series