The Revenge of the Turkey

In December of 1750, Benjamin Franklin had an idea for a tasty turkey dinner. He speculated that electrocuting a turkey might make it juicier to eat. It did not go well. Franklin was experimenting with electricity long before the famous kite test. According to a recent article by Timothy J. Jorgensen in the Smithsonian Magazine, Franklin was working with an invention called a Leyden Jar, which was a forerunner of the capacitor and the battery. Static electricity was transferred into the jar and stored until it could be discharged. Jorgensen writes, “One day, while performing a demonstration of the proper way to electrocute a turkey, (Franklin) mistakenly touched the electrified wire intended for the turkey while his other hand was grounded, thereby diverting the full brunt of the turkey-killing charge into his own body.” It was a near-death experience which probably saved his life two years later. Try not to hurt yourself—turkeys can be dangerous.

Ben Franklin coined such terms as current, positive charge, negative charge, discharge, conductor, and battery. According to the article, Mr. Franklin was embarrassed and humiliated by the incident. His pride was wounded. After he regained consciousness, he felt excruciating pain and saw his blistered hand. It turns out traditional ways of killing a turkey have prevailed. Mr. Jorgensen speculates in his article that the turkey incident prepared Ben to take better precautions in 1752 when flying his kite in a thunderstorm holding a wet string with an iron key attached to it. Franklin tied a length of non-conductive silk to the string, separating him from the electric charge, which he captured through the key in his own Leyden Jar. I have a personal theory that most the ills of our modern world can be laid at the feet of our pride and all things electronic.

Benjamin Franklin is not alone in experiencing disaster getting a turkey ready for dinner. You might have your own story. I call those stories—The Revenge of the Turkey. There’s the story about the weary mother getting up at 4:30 in the morning to put the turkey in the oven, setting the timer, but forgetting to turn on the oven. Or the one about the deep-fried turkey volcano in the kitchen, or the ever popular, “Mom, the dog is eating the turkey.” 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Beware the turkey. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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