The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 1 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 140


24. Every spark in that manner drawn from the surface of the wheel,
makes a round hole in the gilding, tearing off a part of it in coming
out; which shews that the fire is not accumulated on the gilding, but
is in the glass itself.

25. The gilding being varnished over with turpentine varnish, the
varnish, though dry and hard, is burnt by the spark drawn through
it, and gives a strong smell and visible smoke. And when the spark
is drawn thro' paper, all round the hole made by it, the paper will
be blacked by the smoke, which sometimes penetrates several of the
leaves. Part of the gilding torn off is also found forcibly driven
into the hole made in the paper by the stroke.

26. It is amazing to observe in how small a portion of glass a
great electrical force may lie. A thin glass bubble, about an inch
diameter, weighing only six grains, being half filled with water,
partly gilt on the outside, and furnished with a wire hook, gives,
when electrified, as great a shock as a man can well bear. As the
glass is thickest near the orifice, I suppose the lower half, which
being gilt was electrified and gave the shock, did not exceed two
grains; for it appeared, when broken, much thinner than the upper
half.--If one of these thin bottles be electrified by the coating,
and the spark taken out through the gilding, it will break the glass
inwards, at the same time that it breaks the gilding outwards.

27. And allowing (for the reasons before given, § 8, 9, 10,) that
there is no more electrical fire in a bottle after charging, than
before, how great must be the quantity in this small portion of
glass! It seems as if it were of its very substance and essence.
Perhaps if that due quantity of electrical fire so obstinately
retained by glass, could be separated from it, it would no longer
be glass; it might lose its transparency, or its brittleness, or
its elasticity.--Experiments may possibly be invented hereafter, to
discover this.

27. We were surprised at the account given in Mr. Watson's book, of a
shock communicated through a great space of dry ground, and suspect
there must be some metalline quality in the gravel of that ground;
having found that simple dry earth, rammed in a glass tube, open at
both ends, and a wire hook inserted in the earth at each end, the
earth and wires making part of a circuit, would not conduct the least
perceptible shock, and indeed when one wire

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from Oxford and Edinburgh; returns to America.