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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 194

a charged phial to the can,
I gave it a spark, which flowed round in an electric atmosphere;
and the lock of cotton was repelled from the side of the can to the
distance of about nine or ten inches. The can would not then receive
another spark from the wire of the phial; but as I gradually drew
up the chain, the atmosphere of the can diminished by flowing over
the rising chain, and the lock of cotton accordingly drew nearer and
nearer to the can; and then, if I again brought the phial wire near
the can, it would receive another spark, and the cotton fly off
again to its first distance; and thus, as the chain was drawn higher,
the can would receive more sparks; because the can and extended chain
were capable of supporting a greater atmosphere than the can with
the chain gathered up into its belly.--And that the atmosphere round
the can was diminished by raising the chain, and increased again by
lowering it, is not only agreeable to reason, since the atmosphere
of the chain, must be drawn from that of the can, when it rose, and
returned to it again when it fell; but was also evident to the eye,
the lock of cotton always approaching the can when the chain was
drawn up, and receding when it was let down again.

Thus we see that increase of surface makes a body capable of
receiving a greater electric atmosphere: but this experiment does
not, I own, fully demonstrate my new hypothesis; for the brass and
silver still continue in their solid state, and are not rarefied into
vapour, as the water is in clouds. Perhaps some future experiments on
vapourized water may set this matter in a clearer light.

One seemingly material objection arises to the new hypothesis, and it
is this: If water, in its rarefied state, as a cloud, requires, and
will absorb more of the electric fluid than when in its dense state
as water, why does it not acquire from the earth all it wants at the
instant of its leaving the surface, while it is yet near, and but
just rising in vapour? To this difficulty I own I cannot at present
give a solution satisfactory to myself: I thought, however, that I
ought to state it in its full force, as I have done, and submit the
whole to examination.

And I would beg leave to recommend it to the curious in this branch
of natural philosophy, to repeat with care and accurate observation
the experiments I have reported in this and

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