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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 179

bottle came to be of the
same temperature of that without, the drop of red ink would rest in
a certain part of the leg. But the warmth of a finger applied to the
phial would cause that drop to descend, as the least outward coolness
applied would make it ascend. When it had found its situation, and
was at rest, the wire was electrified by a communication from the
prime conductor. This was supposed to give an electric atmosphere to
the wire within the bottle, which might likewise rarefy the included
air, and of course depress the drop of ink in the syphon. But no such
effect followed.


_Mistake, that only Metals and Water were Conductors,
rectified.--Supposition of a Region of electric Fire above our
Atmosphere.--Theorem concerning Light.--Poke-Weed a Cure for

Read at the Royal Society, Nov. 11, 1756.

_Philadelphia, April 23, 1752._


In considering your favour of the 16th past, I recollected my
having wrote you answers to some queries concerning the difference
between electrics _per se_, and non-electrics, and the effects of
air in electrical experiments, which, I apprehend, you may not have
received. The date I have forgotten.

We have been used to call those bodies electrics _per se_, which
would not conduct the electric fluid: We once imagined that only
such bodies contained that fluid; afterwards that they had none of
it, and only educed it from other bodies: but further experiments
shewed our mistake. It is to be found in all matter we know of; and
the distinctions of electrics _per se_, and non-electrics, should now
be dropt as improper, and that of _conductors_ and _non-conductors_
assumed in its place, as I mentioned in those answers.

I do not remember any experiment by which it appeared that high
rectified spirit will not conduct; perhaps you have made such. This
I know, that wax, rosin, brimstone, and even glass, commonly reputed
electrics _per se_, will, when in a fluid state, conduct pretty
well. Glass will do it when only red hot. So that my former position,
that only metals and water were conductors, and other bodies more or
less such, as they partook of metal or moisture, was too general.

Your conception of the electric fluid, that it is incomparably more
subtle than air, is undoubtedly just. It pervades dense matter
with the greatest ease; but it does not seem to mix or incorporate
willingly with mere air, as it does with other matter. It will not
quit common matter to join with air.

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