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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 245

the friction of air blowing
strongly on them, as it does on the kite and its string. If at some
times the electricity appears to be negative, as that friction is the
same, the effect must be from a negative state of the upper air.

I am much pleased with your electrical thermometer, and the
experiments you have made with it. I formerly satisfied myself by an
experiment with my phial and syphon, that the elasticity of the air
was not increased by the mere existence of an electric atmosphere
within the phial; but I did not know, till you now inform me, that
heat may be given to it by an electric explosion. The continuance
of its rarefaction, for some time after the discharge of your glass
jar and of your case of bottles, seem to make this clear. The
other experiments on wet paper, wet thread, green grass, and green
wood, are not so satisfactory; as possibly the reducing part of
the moisture to vapour, by the electric fluid passing through it,
might occasion some expansion which would be gradually reduced by
the condensation of such vapour. The fine silver thread, the very
small brass wire, and the strip of gilt paper, are also subject to a
similar objection, as even metals, in such circumstances, are often
partly reduced to smoke, particularly the gilding on paper.

But your subsequent beautiful experiment on the wire, which you made
hot by the electric explosion, and in that state fired gunpowder
with it, puts it out of all question, that heat is produced by our
artificial electricity, and that the melting of metals in that way,
is not by what I formerly called a cold fusion. A late instance here,
of the melting a bell-wire, in a house struck by lightning, and parts
of the wire burning holes in the floor on which they fell, has proved
the same with regard to the electricity of nature. I was too easily
led into that error by accounts given, even in philosophical books,
and from remote ages downwards, of melting money in purses, swords
in scabbards, &c. without burning the inflammable matters that were
so near those melted metals. But men are, in general, such careless
observers, that a philosopher cannot be too much on his guard in
crediting their relations of things extraordinary, and should never
build an hypothesis on any thing but clear facts and experiments, or
it will be in danger of soon falling, as this does, like a house of
cards.

How many ways there are of kindling fire, or producing heat in
bodies! By the sun's

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