The art of experiments: Benjamin Franklin and the Enlightenment

Date and time

Wednesday 30 November, 1–1.45pm

Sainsbury Wing Theatre

Matthew Morgan and Stephen Wilson


Admission free

Benjamin Franklin was one of the most important scientists of the 18th century, embodying Enlightenment principles of the primacy of reason and rational thought over superstition and blind faith.

Famously fascinated by electricity, Franklin proved that lightning was an electrical phenomenon through his famous ‘kite and key’ experiment. He spent time in Britain and was friendly with many in British Enlightenment circles, including Joseph Wright of Derby.

Matthew Morgan from the National Gallery looks at how the Enlightenment is represented in British art, while Stephen Wilson from Benjamin Franklin House will examine Franklin’s electricity discoveries through live science demonstrations.

Lunchtime talks

Focus in on one painting with our talks in the Gallery, or explore wider themes in the collection at our in-depth theatre talks.

Image above: Detail from Joseph Wright 'of Derby', An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768