Expériences et observations sur l'électricité faites à Philadelphie en Amérique

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 24

1753. nous ont bien appris qu'il avoit été tué
d'un coup d'électricité naturelle; mais on ignore si le tonnerre est
réellement tombé sur son appareil électrique, ou s'il n'a été frappé que
par l'explosion de la matière dont sa barre de fer trop bien isolée se
trouva surchargée. L'exemple de ce qui est arrivé à plusieurs autres en
pareilles circonstances, me fait pancher vers ce dernier sentiment. Dans
l'un & l'autre cas; sans cesser de plaindre son malheur, je ne puis en
attribuer la cause qu'à son défaut d'attention & de précaution. S'il y
eût eu une décharge métallique à un ou deux pouces de l'appareil, elle
en auroit reçu la matière électrique surabondante, & n'y en auroit
laissé qu'autant qu'il en falloit pour faire les expériences
nécessaires, & jamais assez pour frapper à une distance de quatre
pouces, qui est celle où l'on dit que M. Richman a reçu le coup fatal.
Le carillon dont nous avons parlé ci-devant, eût été une décharge plus
que suffisante pour lui sauver la vie.

Dans le tems que la Physique récompensoit si mal les soins d'un Sçavant
empressé à pénétrer ses secrets, je continuois à faire mes observations
tant sur l'électricité naturelle que sur l'artificielle. Je n'y étois
pas plus encouragé par mes premiers succès & par le commerce de Mr.
Franklin que par le vif intérêt qu'y prenoient plusieurs amis du premier
ordre qui travailloient souvent avec moi; l'un de ceux-ci m'avoit prié
de lui aider à former un cabinet électrique complet; je n'avois rien
épargné pour lui donner satisfaction. Le premier fruit qu'il en retira,
fut le succès de mon expérience du tonnerre artificiel sur une glace de
1200. pouces quarrés, dont il fut enchanté.

Cette glace est des plus parfaites & des plus minces, bien polie, en
quarré long, étamée des deux côtés & affermie sur un fort cadre de bois.
Sur le teint de sa surface antérieure, j'ai tracé tout autour une
bordure d'environ trois pouces de largeur, & avec un cizeau de cuivre
j'en ai enlevé l'étain, en observant d'arrondir les angles & de ne point
laisser de bavures en pointes dans tout le circuit. En voilà toute la
préparation.

L'expérience consiste à électriser cette glace ainsi préparée, en
laissant tomber une petite chaîne du premier conducteur sur le milieu de
sa surface antérieure. Si le tems est favorable & que l'on soit dans
l'obscurité, après douze ou quinze tours de rouë on apperçoit sur les
bords de l'étain quelques étincelles, qui augmentant peu à peu en nombre
& en force, représentent assez bien un ciel tout enflammé, tel que celui
qui précède les grands

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