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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 234

motion, and the
resistance it meets with, produce heat in other bodies when passing
through them, provided they be small enough. A large quantity will
pass through a large wire, without producing any sensible heat;
when the same quantity passing through a very small one, being
there confined to a narrower passage, the particles crowding closer
together, and meeting with greater resistance, will make it red hot,
and even melt it.

Hence lightning does not melt metal by a cold fusion, as we formerly
supposed; but, when it passes through the blade of a sword, if the
quantity be not very great, it may heat the point so as to melt it,
while the broadest and thickest part may not be sensibly warmer than

And when trees or houses are set on fire by the dreadful quantity
which a cloud, or the earth, sometimes discharges, must not the heat,
by which the wood is first kindled, be generated by the lightning's
violent motion, through the resisting combustible matter?

If lightning, by its rapid motion, produces heat in _itself_; as
well as in other bodies (and that it does I think is evident from
some of the foregoing experiments made with the thermometer) then
its sometimes singeing the hair of animals killed by it, may easily
be accounted for. And the reason of its not always doing so, may,
perhaps, be this: The quantity, though sufficient to kill a large
animal, may sometimes not be great enough, or not have met with
resistance enough, to become, by its motion, burning hot.

We find that dwelling-houses, struck with lightning, are seldom set
on fire by it; but when it passes through barns, with hay or straw in
them, or store-houses, containing large quantities of hemp, or such
like matter, they seldom, if ever, escape a conflagration; which may,
perhaps, be owing to such combustibles being apt to kindle with a
less degree of heat than is necessary to kindle wood.

We had four houses in this city, and a vessel at one of the wharfs,
struck and damaged by lightning last summer. One of the houses was
struck twice in the same storm. But I have the pleasure to inform
you, that your method of preventing such terrible disasters, has, by
a fact which had like to have escaped our knowledge, given a very
convincing proof of its great utility; and is now in higher repute
with us than ever.

Hearing, a few days ago, that Mr. William West, merchant in this
city, suspected that the lightning in one of the thunder-storms last
summer had passed through the iron conductor, which

Last Page Next Page

Text Comparison with Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Page 2
289 XIX.
Page 6
Franklin shares with Washington the honors of the Revolution, and of the events leading to the birth of the new nation.
Page 7
He is the only statesman who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with England, and the Constitution.
Page 8
The style and manner of his publication on electricity are almost as worthy of admiration as the doctrine it contains.
Page 13
his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.
Page 23
As we parted without settling the point, and were not to see one another again for some time, I sat down to put my arguments in writing, which I copied fair and sent to.
Page 60
Keimer had got a better house, a shop well supply'd with stationery, plenty of new types, a number of hands, tho' none good, and seem'd to have a great deal of business.
Page 61
I found in his house these hands: Hugh Meredith, a Welsh Pennsylvanian, thirty years of age, bred to country work; honest, sensible, had a great deal of solid observation, was something of a reader, but given to drink.
Page 62
[51] A crimp was the agent of a shipping company.
Page 101
3 19 4 52 8 _excuse.
Page 121
To avoid this kind of embarrassment, the Quakers have of late years been gradually declining the public service in the Assembly and in the magistracy, choosing rather to quit their power than their principle.
Page 125
[88] The House named the speaker (Mr.
Page 129
Page 137
One of his friends, who sat next to me, says, "Franklin, why do you continue to side with these damn'd Quakers? Had not you better sell them? The proprietor would give you a good price.
Page 139
cordial and affectionate friendship.
Page 146
But, the expedition having been unfortunate, my service, it seems, was not thought of much value, for those recommendations were never of any use to me.
Page 149
The Moravians procur'd me five waggons for our tools, stores, baggage, etc.
Page 153
I had had the vanity to ascribe all to my _Dialogue_; however, not knowing but that he might be in the right, I let him enjoy his.
Page 163
This daily expectation of sailing, and all the three packets going down to Sandy Hook, to join the fleet there, the passengers thought it best to be on board, lest by a sudden order the ships should sail, and they be left behind.
Page 174
THE WAY TO WEALTH (From "Father Abraham's Speech," forming the preface to Poor _Richard's Almanac_ for 1758.