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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 274

that will
fall on its point. It is true that if another deluge should happen
wherein the windows of heaven are to be opened, such pipes may be
unequal to the falling quantity; and if God for our sins should
think fit to rain fire upon us, as upon some cities of old, it is
not expected that our conductors of whatever size, should secure our
houses against a miracle. Probably as water drawn up into the air
and there forming clouds, is disposed to fall again in _rain_ by
its natural gravity, as soon as a number of particles sufficient to
make a drop can get together; so when the clouds are (by whatever
means) over or under-charged [with the _electric fluid_] to a degree
sufficient to attract them towards the earth, the equilibrium is
restored, before the difference becomes great beyond that degree.
Mr. Lane's _electrometer_, for limiting precisely the quantity of
a shock that is to be administered in a medical view, may serve to
make this more easily intelligible. The discharging knob does by a
screw approach the conductor to the distance intended, but there
remains fixed. Whatever power there may be in the glass globe to
collect the fulminating fluid, and whatever capacity of receiving and
accumulating it there may be in the bottle or glass jar; yet neither
the accumulation or the discharge ever exceeds the destined quantity.
Thus, were the _clouds_ always at a certain fixed distance from the
earth, all discharges would be made when the quantity accumulated
was equal to the distance: But there is a circumstance which by
occasionally lessening the distance, lessens the discharge; to wit,
the moveableness of the clouds, and their being drawn nearer to the
earth by attraction when electrified; so that discharges are thereby
rendered more frequent and of course less violent. Hence whatever the
quantity may be in nature, and whatever the power in the clouds of
collecting it; yet an accumulation and force beyond what mankind has
hitherto been acquainted with is scarce to be expected[89].

B. F.

_Aug. 27, 1772._


[86] Mr. Henley's.

[87] Mr. de Romas saw still greater quantities of lightning brought
down by the wire of his kite. He had "explosions from it, the noise
of which greatly resembled that of thunder, and were heard (from
without) into the heart of the city, notwithstanding the various
noises there. The fire seen at the instant of the explosion had the
shape of a spindle eight inches long and five lines in diameter.
Yet from the time of the explosion to the end of the experiment, no

Last Page Next Page

Text Comparison with Benjamin Franklin and the First Balloons

Page 0
Williamson, of Grandview-on-the-Hudson, to whom they had come from Vienna.
Page 1
[3] Histoire des Ballons, Paris, 1887, Volume I, page 29.
Page 2
One of 38 feet Diameter is preparing by Mr.
Page 3
to forward the Transactions, as well as to the Council for so readily ordering them on Application.
Page 4
The Duke de Crillon made a feast last week in the Bois de Boulogne, just by my habitation, on occasion of the Birth of two Spanish Princes; after the Fireworks we had a Balloon of about 5 feet Diameter filled with permanent inflammable Air.
Page 5
Its bottom was open, and in the middle of the Opening was fixed a kind of Basket Grate in which Faggots and Sheaves of Straw were burnt.
Page 6
_La Machine poussee par le Vent s'est dirigee sur une des Allees du Jardin.
Page 7
It was well that in the hurry of so hazardous an Experiment, the Flame did not happen by any accidental Mismanagement to lay hold of this Straw; tho' each had a Bucket of Water by him, by Way of Precaution.
Page 8
Thus the great Bulk of one of these Machines, with the short duration of its Power, & the great Expence of filling the other will prevent the Inventions being of so much Use, as some may expect, till Chemistry can invent a cheaper light Air producible with more Expedition.
Page 9
With sincere & great Esteem, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obed^t humble Serv^t B.
Page 10
When it arrived at its height, which I suppose might be 3 or 400 Toises, it appeared to have only horizontal Motion.
Page 11
Had the Wind blown fresh, they might have gone much farther.
Page 12
Smyth says that these additions are not in the University of Pennsylvania draft but that they occur in this press-copy, which is obviously a mistake.
Page 13
A "P.
Page 14
" "Aiant encor" might be "Ayant encore", as printed in the "Journal des scavans" of January 1784, but was not corrected here; p.