Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 25

having fertilized a country
of very great extent.

32. If a country be plain, having no mountains to intercept the electrified
clouds, yet is it not without means to make them deposite their water. For
if an electrified cloud coming from the sea, meets in the air a cloud
raised from the land, and therefore not electrified; the first will flash
its fire into the latter, and thereby both clouds shall be made suddenly to
deposite water.

33. The electrified particles of the first cloud close when they lose their
fire; the particles of the other cloud close in receiving it: in both, they
have thereby an opportunity of coalescing into drops.--The concussion or
jerk given to the air, contributes also to shake down the water, not only
from those two clouds but from others near them. Hence the sudden fall of
rain immediately after flashes of lightning.

34. To shew this by an easy experiment. Take two round pieces of pasteboard
two inches diameter; from the center and circumference of each of them
suspend by fine silk threads eighteen inches long, seven small balls of
wood, or seven peas equal in bigness; so will the balls appending to each
pasteboard, form equal equilateral triangles, one ball being in the center,
and six at equal distances from that, and from each other; and thus they
represent particles of air. Dip both sets in water, and some cohering to
each ball they will represent air loaded. Dexterously electrify one set,
and its balls will repel each other to a greater distance, enlarging the
triangles. Could the water supported by the seven balls come into contact,
it would form a drop or drops so heavy as to break the cohesion it had with
the balls, and so fall.--Let the two sets then represent two clouds, the
one a sea cloud electrified, the other a land cloud. Bring them within the
sphere of attraction, and they will draw towards each other, and you will
see the separated balls close thus; the first electrified ball that comes
near an unelectrified ball by attraction joins it, and gives it fire;
instantly they separate, and each flies to another ball of its own party,
one to give, the other to receive fire; and so it proceeds through both
sets, but so quick as to be in a manner instantaneous. In the collision
they shake off and drop their water, which represents rain.

35. Thus when sea and land clouds would pass at too great a distance for
the flash, they are attracted towards each other till within that distance;
for the sphere

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