Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 34

and receive what is so discharged.

17. But points have a property, by which they _draw on_ as well as _throw
off_ the electrical fluid, at greater distances than blunt bodies can. That
is, as the pointed part of an electrified body will discharge the
atmosphere of that body, or communicate it farthest to another body, so the
point of an unelectrified body, will draw off the electrical atmosphere
from an electrified body, farther than a blunter part of the same
unelectrified body will do. Thus a pin held by the head, and the point
presented to an electrified body, will draw off its atmosphere at a foot
distance; where if the head were presented instead of the point, no such
effect would follow. To understand this, we may consider, that if a person
standing on the floor would draw off the electrical atmosphere from an
electrified body, an iron crow and a blunt knitting kneedle held
alternately in his hand and presented for that purpose, do not draw with
different forces in proportion to their different masses. For the man, and
what he holds in his hand, be it large or small, are connected with the
common mass of unelectrified matter; and the force with which he draws is
the same in both cases, it consisting in the different proportion of
electricity in the electrified body and that common mass. But the force
with which the electrified body retains its atmosphere by attracting it, is
proportioned to the surface over which the particles are placed; i.e. four
square inches of that surface retain their atmosphere with four times the
force that one square inch retains its atmosphere. And as in plucking the
hairs from the horse's tail, a degree of strength insufficient to pull away
a handful at once, could yet easily strip it hair by hair; so a blunt body
presented cannot draw off a number of particles at once, but a pointed one,
with no greater force, takes them away easily, particle by particle.

18. These explanations of the power and operation of points, when they
first occurr'd to me, and while they first floated in my mind, appeared
perfectly satisfactory; but now I have wrote them, and consider'd them more
closely in black and white, I must own I have some doubts about them: yet
as I have at present nothing better to offer in their stead, I do not cross
them out: for even a bad solution read, and its faults discover'd, has
often given rise to a good one in the mind of an ingenious reader.

19. Nor

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