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be retained by a body in vacuo. A common electrical phial requires a non-electric communication from the wire to every part of the charged glass; otherwise, being dry and clean, and filled with air only, it charges slowly, and discharges gradually by sparks, without a shock; but, exhausted of air, the communication is so open and free between the inserted wire and surface of the glass, that it charges as readily, and shocks as smartly as if filled with water; and I doubt not, but that, in the experiment you propose, the sparks would not only be near straight in vacuo, but strike at a greater distance than in the open air, though perhaps there would not be a loud explosion. As soon as I have a little leisure, I will make the experiment, and send you the result.

My supposition, that the sea might possibly be the grand source of lightning, arose from the common observation of its luminous appearance in the night, on the least motion; an appearance never observed in fresh water. Then I knew, that the electric fluid may be pumped up out of the earth, by the friction of a glass globe, on a non-electric cushion; and that, notwithstanding the surprising activity and swiftness of that fluid, and the non-electric communication between all parts of the cushion and the earth, yet quantities would be snatched up by the revolving surface of the globe, thrown on the prime conductor, and dissipated in air. How this was done, and why that subtile, active spirit did not immediately return again from the globe into some part or other of the cushion, and so into the earth, was difficult to conceive; but, whether from its being opposed by a current setting upwards to the cushion, or from whatever other cause, that it did not so return was an evident fact. Then I considered the separate particles of water as so many hard spherules,

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capable of touching the salt only in points, and imagined a particle of salt could therefore no more be wet by a particle of water, than a globe by a cushion; that there might therefore be such a friction between these originally constituent particles of salt and water, as in a sea of globes and cushions; that each particle of water on the surface might obtain, from the common mass, some particles of the universally diffused, much finer, and more subtile electric fluid, and, forming to itself an atmosphere of those particles, be repelled from the then generally electrified surface of the sea, and fly away with them into the air. I thought, too, that possibly the great mixture of particles electric per se, in the ocean water, might, in some degree, impede the swift motion and dissipation of the electric fluid through it to the shores, &c. But, having since found, that salt in the water of an electric phial does not lessen the shock; and having endeavoured in vain to produce that luminous appearance from a mixture of salt and water agitated; and observed, that even the sea-water will not produce it after some hours standing in a bottle; I suspect it to proceed from some principle yet unknown to us (which I would gladly make some experiments to discover, if I lived near the sea), and I grow more doubtful of my former supposition, and more ready to allow weight to that objection (drawn from the activity of the electric fluid, and the readiness of water to conduct), which you have indeed stated with great strength and


In the mean time, before we part with this hypothesis, let us think what to substitute in its place. I have sometimes queried, whether the friction of the air, an electric per se, in violent winds, among trees, and against the surface of the earth, might not pump up, as so many glass globes, quantities of the electric fluid, which

the rising vapors might receive from the air, and retain in the clouds they form; on which I should be glad to have your sentiments. An ingenious friend of mine supposes the land clouds more likely to be electrified than the sea clouds. I send his letter for your perusal, which please to return me.

I have wrote nothing lately on electricity, nor observed any thing new that is material, my time being much taken up with other affairs. Yesterday I discharged four jars through a fine wire, tied up between two strips of glass; the wire was in part melted, and the rest broke into small pieces, from half an inch long, to half a quarter of an inch. My globe raises the electric fire with greater ease, in much greater quantities, by the means of a wire extended from the cushion, to the iron pin of a pump-handle behind my house, which communicates by the pump-spear with the water in the well.

By this post I send to Dr. Perkins, who is curious in that way, some meteorological observations and conjectures, and desire him to communicate them to you, as they may afford you some amusement, and I know you will look over them with a candid eye. By throwing our occasional thoughts on paper, we more readily discover the defects of our opinions, or we digest them better, and find new arguments to support them. This I sometimes practise; but such pieces are fit only to be seen by friends.

I am, with great respect, &c.



New Experiments. -Paradoxes inferred from them.— Difference in the Electricity of a Globe of Glass charged, and a Globe of Sulphur. — Difficulty of ascertaining which is positive and which negative.

[Boston,] 3 February, 1752.


I have the following experiments to communicate. I held in one hand a wire, which was fastened at the other end to the handle of a pump, in order to try whether the stroke from the prime conductor, through my arms, would be any greater than when conveyed only to the surface of the earth, but could discover no difference.

I placed the needle of a compass on the point of a long pin, and, holding it in the atmosphere of the prime conductor, at the distance of about three inches, found it to whirl round like the flyers of a jack, with great rapidity.

I suspended with silk a cork ball, about the bigness of a pea, and presented to it rubbed amber, sealingwax, and sulphur, by each of which it was strongly repelled; then I tried rubbed glass and China, and found that each of these would attract it, until it became electrified again, and then it would be repelled as at first; and, while thus repelled by the rubbed glass or China, either of the others when rubbed would attract it. Then I electrified the ball, with the wire of a charged phial, and presented to it rubbed glass (the stopper of a decanter) and a China tea-cup, by which it was as strongly repelled as by the wire; but, when I presented either of the other rubbed electrics, it would be strongly attracted, and, when I electrified it by



either of these, till it became repelled, it would be attracted by the wire of the phial, but be repelled by its coating.

These experiments surprised me very much, and have induced me to infer the following paradoxes.

1. If a glass globe be placed at one end of a prime conductor, and a sulphur one at the other end, both being equally in good order, and in equal motion, not a spark of fire can be obtained from the conductor; but one globe will draw out, as fast as the other gives in.

2. If a phial be suspended on the conductor, with a chain from its coating to the table, and only one of the globes be made use of at a time, twenty turns of the wheel, for instance, will charge it; after which, so many turns of the other wheel will discharge it; and as many more will charge it again.

3. The globes being both in motion, each having a separate conductor, with a phial suspended on one of them, and the chain of it fastened to the other, the phial will become charged; one globe charging positively, the other negatively.

4. The phial being thus charged, hang it in like manner on the other conductor; set both wheels a going again, and the same number of turns that charged it before will now discharge it; and the same number, repeated, will charge it again.

5. When each globe communicates with the same prime conductor, having a chain hanging from it to the table, one of them, when in motion, (but which I cannot say,) will draw fire up through the cushion, and discharge it through the chain; the other will draw it up through the chain, and discharge it through the cushion.

I should be glad if you would send to my house for

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