Static electricity is a direct consequence of atomic structure. Electrons are sought after by all atoms, or at least the positive center of an atom the nucleus. Each atom is usually charge neutral, meaning the number of electrons is equal to the number of protons. However some elements and compounds have preferences for (affinities) negative (excess electrons) or positive (shortage of electrons) states.
Electrons on the outer shell are very free to swap from one atom to another.
What we call static, we notice when a material that is usually a non conductor (insulator) of electricity, gives away too many electrons or has taken, been given too many electrons.
Watch the following video and try out a few methods of showing static attraction and repulsion.
Benjamin Franklin & and Ebenezer Kinnersley renamed the charges
Benjamin Franklinconducted extensive research in electricity, selling his possessions to fund his work. In June 1752 he is reputed to have attached a metal key to the bottom of a dampened kite string and flown the kite in a storm-threatened sky. A succession of sparks jumping from the key to the back of his hand showed that lightning was indeed electrical in nature.
- 1752 Experiments with a kite and discovers that lightning is an electrical discharge.
- 1753 Awarded the Copley medal for this discovery, and elected a member of the Royal Society; receives the degree of M.A. from Yale and Harvard.
Ben Franklin: The Plus and Minus. From The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, by H.W. Brands, here is a description of Franklin's ongoing correspondence begun in 1747 with Peter Collinson in London. Collinson was an agent of the Library Society of Philadelphia, and a scholar with scientific interests similar to Franklin's:
"In one of his first letters, Franklin supplied a novel terminology that became standard in analyzing electrical phenomena. Describing a particular apparatus, consisting of bodies labeled A and B, he wrote: 'We say B (and other bodies alike circumscribed) are electrised positively; A negatively. Or rather B is electrised plus and A minus ….' At a time when other electricians spoke of two different kinds of electricity — vitreous and resinous — Franklin unified the field by positing a single sort and explaining the opposite properties in terms of a surfeit or a deficit (that is, positive condition or negative) of this single electricity, with uncharged objects being in balance."
Franklin and lightning: Previously, lightning was thought to be the work of supernatural forces. Many European Christians at the time of Franklin believed it to be diabolical in origin, based largely on the interpretation of a single phrase in the Bible.
Taken from http://physics.info/charge/