First recorded use of expired-air respiration to revive a victim of electric shock
Benjamin Franklin
- first
United States (Philadelphia)

The first recorded resuscitation of a creature struck seemingly dead by electric shock took place in Philadelphia, USA, in 1749. American inventor and scientist Benjamin Franklin used a powerful electric shock to kill a chicken, then revived it by "repeatedly blowing into its lungs". He described this experiment in a letter to the British Royal Society, published the following year.

Benjamin Franklin's experiment formed part of a broader investigation into the nature of what he called "electrical fluid" (electricity) and its relationship to natural lightning. He had noted that there were many reports of people being left blind by lightning strikes, and he wanted to see if this could be reproduced with the electricity from his Leyden jars (simple early capacitors). In this case (and at least one other he recorded), the animal was returned to life seemingly blind, adding more evidence to support his assertion that electricity and lightning were the same phenomenon.

Benjamin Franklin's experiments with animals led to him developing a taste for electrocuted meat, which he asserted was more tender than that of animals conventionally slaughtered. He took to using Leyden jars to kill turkeys as a party trick before dinner.

On one occasion, close to Christmas 1750, Franklin's party trick went badly wrong. While preparing his equipment in front of his guests, he accidentally touched the positive and negative terminals of his Leyden jars giving himself a powerful electric shock. His guests saw a bright flash of light and a loud crack, though Franklin, stunned by the shock, was aware of neither.

Writing to his brother John a few days later, Franklin described the experience as follows:

"I then felt what I know not how to describe... a universal blow throughout my whole body from head to foot, which seemed within as well as without; after which the first thing I took notice of was a violent quick shaking of my body, which gradually remitting, my sense as gradually returned, and then I thought the bottles must be discharged, but could not conceive how, till at last I perceived the chain in my hand, and recollected what I had been about to do. That part of my hand and fingers which held the chain was left white, as though the blood had been driven out, and remained so eight or ten minutes after, feeling like dead flesh; and I had a numbness in my arms and back of my neck, which continued till the next morning, but wore off. Nothing remains now of the shock but a soreness in my breastbone, which feels as if it had been bruised. I did not fall, but suppose I should have been knocked down if I had received the stroke in my head. The whole was over in a minute."

He ended the letter by urging his brother, "communicate this to Governor Bowdoin [another experimenter with electricity] as a caution to him, do not make it more public, for I am ashamed to have been guilty of so notorious a blunder".