Kite Science

In the United States, perhaps the one universal “kite fact” is that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in 1752 to prove that lightning was “electrical matter.” Speculation that the experiment never happened is immaterial, Franklin and his experiment are commemorated on coins, postage stamps, beer mugs, lithographs, and paintings.

From the mid-1890s kites began an important role in early meteorology. Dines, DeBort, Assmann, and Rotch all played roles in using kites for atmospheric research. The US Weather Bureau had 17 kite stations in the early 1900s and weather data from kite ascents was shared worldwide.

Kites have been used recently for environmental air sampling, bat research, and environmental aerial photography. There is a recent move to harness the power- generation potential of high-flying kites, in which kites flown as high as the jet stream could generate power onboard and transmit it to ground stations, or kite systems’ tethers would generate power on the ground.

The Oldest Recorded Western Kite Still in Existence – The oldest kite still in existence is a Dutch Peartop paper kite owned by Peter Lynn. The kite is currently thought to be at least 237 years old – it was created at least as early as 1773. The kite was found between the ceiling and floor of the first and second stories of a Dutch rowhouse, and pages from a book published in 1700 were used in the kite’s construction.