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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 196

best materials and complete conductors, will, I think,
secure the building from damage, either by restoring the equilibrium
so fast as to prevent a stroke, or by conducting it in the substance
of the rod as far as the rod goes, so that there shall be no
explosion but what is above its point, between that and the clouds.

If it be asked, what thickness of a metalline rod may be supposed
sufficient? In answer, I would remark, that five large glass jars,
such as I have described in my former papers, discharge a very great
quantity of electricity, which nevertheless will be all conducted
round the corner of a book, by the fine filleting of gold on the
cover, it following the gold the farthest way about, rather than
take the shorter course through the cover, that not being so good
a conductor. Now in this line of gold, the metal is so extremely
thin as to be little more than the colour of gold, and on an octavo
book is not in the whole an inch square, and therefore not the
thirty-sixth part of a grain, according to M. Reaumur; yet it is
sufficient to conduct the charge of five large jars, and how many
more I know not. Now, I suppose a wire of a quarter of an inch
diameter to contain about five thousand times as much metal as there
is in that gold line, and if so, it will conduct the charge of
twenty-five thousand such glass jars, which is a quantity, I imagine,
far beyond what was ever contained in any one stroke of natural
lightning. But a rod of half an inch diameter would conduct four
times as much as one of a quarter.

And with regard to conducting, though a certain thickness of metal
be required to conduct a great quantity of electricity, and, at the
same time, keep its own substance firm and unseparated; and a less
quantity, as a very small wire for instance, will be destroyed by
the explosion; yet such small wire will have answered the end of
conducting that stroke, though it become incapable of conducting
another. And considering the extreme rapidity with which the electric
fluid moves without exploding, when it has a free passage, or
compleat metal communication, I should think a vast quantity would
be conducted in a short time, either to or from a cloud, to restore
its equilibrium with the earth, by means of a very small wire; and
therefore thick rods should seem not so necessary.--However, as
the quantity of lightning discharged in one stroke, cannot well

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, to be destroy'd, that he might have more horses to assist his flight towards the settlements, and less lumber to remove.
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