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Opinions and Conjectures concerning the Properties and Effects of the Electrical Matter, and the Means of preserving Buildings, Ships, &c. from Lightning, arising from Experiments and Observations made at Philadelphia, 1749. — Golden Fish. — Extraction of Effluvial Virtues by Electricity impracticable.
§ 1. The electrical matter consists of particles extremely subtile, since it can permeate common matter, even the densest metals, with such ease and freedom as not to receive any perceptible resistance. 2. If any one should doubt whether the electrical matter passes through the substance of bodies, or only over and along their surfaces, a shock from an electrified large glass jar, taken through his own body, will probably convince him. 3. Electrical matter differs from common matter in this, that the parts of the latter mutually attract, those of the former mutually repel each other. Hence the appearing divergency in a stream of electrified effluvia. 4. But, though the particles of electrical matter do repel each other, they are strongly attracted by all other matter.” 5. From these three things, the extreme subtilty of the electrical matter, the mutual repulsion of its parts, and the strong attraction between them and other matter, arises this effect, that, when a quantity of electrical matter is applied to a mass of common matter, of any bigness or length, within our observation, (which hath not already got its quantity,) it is immediately and equally diffused through the whole. 6. Thus, common matter is a kind of sponge to the
* * See the ingenious Essays on Electricity, in the Transactions, by Mr. Ellicot.
electrical fluid. And as a sponge would receive no water, if the parts of water were not smaller than the pores of the sponge; and even then but slowly, if there were not a mutual attraction between those parts and the parts of the sponge; and would still imbibe it faster, if the mutual attraction among the parts of the water did not impede, some force being required to separate them; and fastest, if, instead of attraction, there were a mutual repulsion among those parts, which would act in conjunction with the attraction of the sponge; so is the case between the electrical and common matter. 7. But in common matter there is (generally) as much of the electrical, as it will contain within its substance. If more is added, it lies without upon the surface, and forms what we call an electrical atmosphere; and then the body is said to be electrified. 8. It is supposed, that all kinds of common matter do not attract and retain the electrical, with equal strength and force, for reasons to be given hereafter. And that those called electrics per se, as glass, &c., attract and retain it strongest, and contain the greatest quantity. 9. We know, that the electrical fluid is in common matter, because we can pump it out by the globe or tube. We know that common matter has near as much as it can contain, because, when we add a little more to any portion of it, the additional quantity does not enter, but forms an electrical atmosphere. And we know, that common matter has not (generally) more than it can contain, otherwise all loose portions of it would repel each other, as they constantly do when they have electric atmospheres. 10. The beneficial uses of this electric fluid in the creation we are not yet well acquainted with, though doubtless such there are, and those very considerable; but we may see some pernicious consequences that would attend a much greater proportion of it. For, had this globe we live on, as much of it in proportion, as we can give to a globe of iron, wood, or the like, the particles of dust and other light matters that get loose from it, would, by virtue of their separate electrical atmospheres, not only repel each other, but be repelled from the earth, and not easily be brought to unite with it again; whence our air would continually be more and more clogged with foreign matter, and grow unfit for respiration. This affords another occasion of adoring that wisdom which has made all things by weight and measure! 11. If a piece of common matter be supposed entirely free from electrical matter, and a single particle of the latter be brought nigh, it will be attracted, and enter the body, and take place in the centre, or where the attraction is every way equal. If more particles enter, they take their places where the balance is equal between the attraction of the common matter, and their own mutual repulsion. It is supposed they form triangles, whose sides shorten as their number increases, till the common matter has drawn in so many, that its whole power of compressing those triangles by attraction is equal to their whole power of expanding themselves by repulsion; and then will such a piece of matter receive no more. 12. When part of this natural proportion of electrical fluid is taken out of a piece of common matter, the triangles formed by the remainder are supposed to widen by the mutual repulsion of the parts, until they occupy the whole piece. 13. When the quantity of electrical fluid, taken from a piece of common matter, is restored again, it enters the expanded triangles, being again compressed till there is room for the whole. VOL. V. T
14. To explain this; take two apples, or two balls of wood or other matter, each having its own natural quantity of the electrical fluid. Suspend them by silk lines from the ceiling. Apply the wire of a well-charged phial, held in your hand, to one of them (A) Fig. 7, and it will receive from the wire a quantity of the electrical fluid, but will not imbibe it, being already full. The fluid, therefore, will flow round its surface, and form an electrical atmosphere. Bring A into. contact with B, and half the electrical fluid is communicated, so that each has now an electrical atmosphere, and therefore they repel each other. Take away these atmospheres, by touching the balls, and leave them in their natural state; then, having fixed a stick of sealingwax to the middle of the phial to hold it by, apply the wire to A, at the same time the coating touches B. Thus will a quantity of the electrical fluid be drawn out of B, and thrown' on A. So that A will have a redundance of this fluid, which forms an atmosphere round, and B an exactly equal deficiency. Now, bring these balls again into contact, and the electrical atmosphere will not be divided between A and B, into two smaller atmospheres as before; for B will drink up the whole atmosphere of A, and both will be found again in their natural state.
15. The form of the electrical atmosphere is that of the body it surrounds. This shape may be rendered visible in a still air, by raising a smoke from dry rosin dropt into a hot tea-spoon under the electrified body, which will be attracted, and spread itself equally on all sides, covering and concealing the body.* And this form it takes, because it is attracted by all parts of the surface of the body, though it cannot enter the
substance already replete. Without this attraction, it would not remain round the body, but dissipate in the air. 16. The atmosphere of electrical particles surrounding an electrified sphere, is not more disposed to leave it, or more easily drawn off from any one part of the sphere than another, because it is equally attracted by every part. But that is not the case with bodies of any other figure. From a cube it is more easily drawn at the corners than at the plane sides, and so from the angles of a body of any other form, and still most easily from the angle that is most acute. Thus, if a body shaped as .4, B, C, D, E, in Fig. 8, be electrified, or have an electrical atmosphere communicated to it, and we consider every side as a base on which the particles rest, and by which they are attracted, one may see, by imagining a line from .4 to F, and another from E to G, that the portion of the atmosphere included in F.1, E, G, has the line.A, E, for its basis. So the portion of atmosphere, included in H, A, B, I, has the line.A, B for its basis.' And likewise the portion included in K, B, C, L, has B, C to rest on; and so on the other side of the figure. Now, if you would draw off this atmosphere with any blunt, smooth body, and approach the middle of the side A, B, you must come very near, before the force of your attractor exceeds the force or power with which that side holds its atmosphere. But there is a small portion between I, B, K, that has less of the surface to rest on, and to be attracted by, than the neighbouring portions, while at the same time there is a mutual repulsion between its particles, and the particles of those portions; therefore here you can get it with more ease, or at a greater distance. Between F.A, H, there is a larger portion that has yet a less surface to rest on, and to attract it; here, therefore, you