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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 174

one long wire, reaching from the internal surface of
the phial to the spirits.

_June 29, 1751._ In Capt. Waddell's account of the effects of
lightning on his ship, I could not but take notice of the large
comazants (as he calls them) that settled on the spintles at the
top-mast heads, and burnt like very large torches (before the
stroke.) According to my opinion, the electrical fire was then
drawing off, as by points, from the cloud; the largeness of the flame
betokening the great quantity of electricity in the cloud: and had
there been a good wire communication from the spintle heads to the
sea, that could have conducted more freely than tarred ropes, or
masts of turpentine wood, I imagine there would either have been no
stroke, or, if a stroke, the wire would have conducted it all into
the sea without damage to the ship.

His compasses lost the virtue of the load-stone, or the poles were
reversed; the north point turning to the south.--By electricity we
have (_here_ at _Philadelphia_) frequently given polarity to needles,
and reversed it at pleasure. Mr. Wilson, at London, tried it on too
large masses, and with too small force.

A shock from four large glass jars, sent through a fine
sewing-needle, gives it polarity, and it will traverse when laid
on water.--If the needle, when struck, lies east and west, the end
entered by the electric blast points north.--If it lies north and
south, the end that lay towards the north will continue to point
north when placed on water, whether the fire entered at that end, or
at the contrary end.

The polarity given is strongest when the needle is struck lying north
and south, weakest when lying east and west; perhaps if the force was
still greater, the south end, entered by the fire (when the needle
lies north and south) might become the north, otherwise it puzzles us
to account for the inverting of compasses by lightning; since their
needles must always be found in that situation, and by our little
experiments, whether the blast entered the north and went out at the
south end of the needle, or the contrary, still the end that lay to
the north should continue to point north.

In these experiments the ends of the needles are sometimes finely
blued like a watch-spring by the electric flame.--This colour given
by the flash from two jars only, will wipe off, but four jars fix
it, and frequently melt the needles. I send you some that have had
their heads and points melted off by our mimic lightning; and a pin
that

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