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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 233

rarefies the air very
evidently; which shows, I think, that the electric fire must produce
heat in itself, as well as in the air, by its rapid motion.

The charge of one of my glass jars (which will contain about five
gallons and a half, wine measure) darting from wire to wire, will,
by the disturbance it gives the air, repelling it in all directions,
raise the column in the tube K, up to _d_, or thereabouts; and
the charge of the above-mentioned case of bottles will raise it
to the top of the tube. Upon the air's coalescing, the column, by
its gravity, instantly subsides, till it is in equilibrio with the
rarefied air; it then gradually descends as the air cools, and
settles where it stood before. By carefully observing at what height
above the gage-wire _b_, the descending column first stops, the
degree of rarefaction is discovered, which, in great explosions, is
very considerable.

I hung in the thermometer, successively, a strip of wet writing
paper, a wet flaxen and woollen thread, a blade of green grass, a
filament of green wood, a fine silver thread, a very small brass
wire, and a strip of gilt paper; and found that the charge of the
above-mentioned glass jar, passing through each of these, especially
the last, produced heat enough to rarefy the air very perceptibly.

I then suspended, out of the thermometer, a piece of small
harpsichord wire, about twenty-four inches long, with a pound
weight at the lower end, and sent the charge of the case of five
and thirty bottles through it, whereby I discovered a new method of
wire-drawing. The wire was red hot the whole length, well annealed,
and above an inch longer than before. A second charge melted it;
it parted near the middle, and measured, when the ends were put
together, four inches longer than at first. This experiment, I
remember, you proposed to me before you left Philadelphia; but I
never tried it till now. That I might have no doubt of the wire's
being _hot_ as well as red, I repeated the experiment on another
piece of the same wire, encompassed with a goose-quill, filled with
loose grains of gun-powder; which took fire as readily as if it had
been touched with a red hot poker. Also tinder, tied to another piece
of the wire, kindled by it. I tried a wire about three times as big,
but could produce no such effects with that.

Hence it appears that the electric fire, though it has no sensible
heat when in a state of rest, will, by its violent

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