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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 209

project! But he was, as you observe, a very
singular character. I was sorry the tubes did not get to the Havannah
in time for him. If they are still in being, please to send for them,
and accept of them. What became of him afterwards I have never heard.
He promised to write to me as often as he could on his journey, and
as soon as he should get home after finishing his tour. It is now
seven years since he was here. If he is still in New Spain, as
you imagine from that loose report, I suppose it must be that they
confine him there, and prevent his writing: but I think it more
likely that he may be dead.

The questions you ask about the pores of glass, I cannot answer
otherwise, than that I know nothing of their nature; and
suppositions, however ingenious, are often mere mistakes. My
hypothesis, that they were smaller near the middle of the glass, too
small to admit the passage of electricity, which could pass through
the surface till it came near the middle, was certainly wrong: For
soon after I had written that letter, I did, in order to _confirm_
the hypothesis (which indeed I ought to have done before I wrote it)
make an experiment. I ground away five-sixths of the thickness of the
glass, from the side of one of my phials, expecting that the supposed
denser part being so removed, the electric fluid might come through
the remainder of the glass, which I had imagined more open; but I
found myself mistaken. The bottle charged as well after the grinding
as before. I am now, as much as ever, at a loss to know how or where
the quantity of electric fluid, on the positive side of the glass, is
disposed of.

As to the difference of conductors, there is not only this, that some
will conduct electricity in small quantities, and yet do not conduct
it fast enough to produce the shock; but even among those that will
conduct a shock, there are some that do it better than others. Mr.
Kinnersley has found, by a very good experiment, that when the charge
of a bottle hath an opportunity of passing two ways, _i. e._ straight
through a trough of water ten feet long, and six inches square; or
round about through twenty feet of wire, it passes through the wire,
and not through the water, though that is the shortest course; the
wire being the better conductor. When the wire is taken away, it
passes through the water, as

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| | | S.
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10 } 11 } NOON.
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