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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 210

may be felt by a hand plunged in the
water; but it cannot be felt in the water when the wire is used at
the same time. Thus, though a small phial containing water will give
a smart shock, one containing the same quantity of mercury will give
one much stronger, the mercury being the better conductor; while one
containing oil, only, will scarce give any shock at all.

Your question, how I came first to think of proposing the experiment
of drawing down the lightning, in order to ascertain its sameness
with the electric fluid, I cannot answer better than by giving you an
extract from the minutes I used to keep of the experiments I made,
with memorandums of such as I purposed to make, the reasons for
making them, and the observations that arose upon them, from which
minutes my letters were afterwards drawn. By this extract you will
see that the thought was not so much "an out-of-the-way one," but
that it might have occurred to an electrician.

"Nov. 7, 1749. Electrical fluid agrees with lightning in these
particulars: 1. Giving light. 2. Colour of the light. 3. Crooked
direction. 4. Swift motion. 5. Being conducted by metals. 6. Crack or
noise in exploding. 7. Subsisting in water or ice. 8. Rending bodies
it passes through. 9. Destroying animals. 10. Melting metals. 11.
Firing inflammable substances. 12. Sulphureous smell.--The electric
fluid is attracted by points.--We do not know whether this property
is in lightning.--But since they agree in all the particulars
wherein we can already compare them, is it not probable they agree
likewise in this?--Let the experiment be made."

I wish I could give you any satisfaction in the article of clouds. I
am still at a loss about the manner in which they become charged with
electricity; no hypothesis I have yet formed perfectly satisfying me.
Some time since, I heated very hot a brass plate, two feet square,
and placed it on an electric stand. From the plate a wire extended
horizontally four or five feet, and, at the end of it, hung, by linen
threads, a pair of cork balls. I then repeatedly sprinkled water over
the plate, that it might be raised from it in vapour, hoping that if
the vapour either carried off the electricity of the plate, or left
behind it that of the water (one of which I supposed it must do, if,
like the clouds, it became electrised itself, either positively or
negatively) I should perceive and determine it by the separation of
the balls, and by finding whether they were positive or negative;

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Text Comparison with Benjamin Franklin and the First Balloons

Page 0
They have corrections in the author's hand-writing and, except for a few words, are quite legible.
Page 1
The Champ de Mars being surrounded by Multitudes, and vast Numbers on the opposite Side of the River.
Page 2
The Multitude separated, all well satisfied and delighted with the Success of the Experiment, and amusing one another with discourses of the various uses it may possibly be apply'd to, among which many were very extravagant.
Page 3
One has ordered four of 15 feet Diameter each; I know not with what Purpose; But such is the present Enthusiasm for promoting and improving this Discovery, that probably we shall soon make considerable Progress in the art of constructing and using the Machines.
Page 4
I was not present, but am told it was filled in about ten minutes by means of burning Straw.
Page 5
With great esteem and respect, for yourself and the Society; I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble Servant, B.
Page 6
If those in the Gallery see it likely to descend in an improper Place, they can by throwing on more Straw, & renewing the Flame, make it rise again, and the Wind carries it farther.
Page 7
A very handsome triumphal Car will be suspended to it, in which Mess^rs.
Page 8
Beings of a Rank and Nature far superior to ours have not disdained to amuse themselves with making and launching Balloons, otherwise we should never have enjoyed the Light of those glorious objects that rule our Day & Night, nor have had the Pleasure of riding round the Sun ourselves upon the.
Page 9
Never before was a philosophical Experiment so magnificently attended.
Page 10
Means were used, I am told, to prevent the great Balloon's rising so high as might indanger its Bursting.
Page 11
The little Balloon falling at Vincennes, shows that mounting higher it met with a Current of Air in a contrary Direction: An Observation that may be of use to future aerial Voyagers.
Page 12
Bigelow omits paragraph ten beginning "It is said.
Page 13
However, other changes were introduced in the _Proces-Verbal_ when reprinted in the second volume of M.
Page 14
Robert, two Brothers,"; p.