Why Benjamin Franklin Tried To Electrocute A Turkey

Benjamin Franklin has garnered a reputation for being one of the most eccentric and eclectic of the Founding Fathers. A politician, philosopher, diplomat, inventor, and much more, Franklin was known to theorize and experiment across several disciplines in pursuit of knowledge, but one of his favorite and most well-known areas of study was electricity. While he made several breakthroughs in our understanding of electricity, some of his experiments were a bit odd, including his dream of holding the world's first electric barbecue (via Mental Floss).

Franklin dreamed of a world in which poultry could be killed and cooked through the use of electricity. It took months of experiments with primitive batteries, but in 1750 Franklin became the first person to kill something with electricity when he zapped a turkey to death, rather than just knocking them out the way his experiments usually did. Eager to show off his new cooking method, Franklin organized a public demonstration. It's safe to say the results weren't what he was hoping for.

Franklin wanted more tender turkeys

Franklin had retired from printing in 1745, just around the time he became obsessed with electrical experiments, according to American Physical Society. Electricity was mainly used for party tricks and novelty games, and few had seen the potential in it that the Philadelphia man had seen, although he also invented his fair share of electrical parlor games. His turkey experiments were not just an attempt to answer a bizarre "what if?" question, as Franklin believed electrocuted meat would be extra tender, compared to traditional cooking methods.

In 1750 he staged a public demonstration of what he hoped would be the first turkey barbecued by electricity. He'd been working on the process for a while, says Mental Floss, and had finally succeeded in executing a turkey. But on the day of his exhibition, something went frightfully wrong. Franklin received the jolt and the bird walked away. Franklin was knocked out, described as "numb for the rest of the evening."

Though sufficiently embarrassed by his public turkey BBQ gone awry, Franklin persisted with his experiments, though there's no record of him trying to electrocute a turkey in public again. Franklin was among the first to scientifically study electricity and began to apply it in more serious scenarios. One year after his fowl faux pas, Franklin published a popular book on electricity, and conducted his famous kite experiment the following year. Electricity has come a long way from poorly roasted turkeys.