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but only that these reasons do not appear to me to support the Doctor's opinion.
The Doctor hints that he has something in speculation, which will be the means of improving all parts of natural philosophy. If he has communicated his scheme to you, or any new improvement, I shall be obliged, provided it be consistent with the laws of friendship, if you would favor me with some account of it. I have heard, that several gentlemen have desired you to procure them a number of large glass jars suitable for electrical experiments; I take the liberty of adding to your trouble, by asking the favor of you to procure half a dozen of them for me, two of them to be coated and made fit for use, the other four I shall get finished here; for which I shall take care to reimburse you. I am, with much esteem,
Sir, yours, &c.
TO E. KINNERSLEY, AT BOSTON.
Reasons for supposing that the Glass Globe charges positively, and the Sulphur negatively. - Hint respecting a Leather Globe for Experiments when travelling.
Philadelphia, 16 March, 1752.
Having brought your brimstone globe to work, I tried one of the experiments you proposed, and was agreeably surprised to find, that the glass globe being at one end of the conductor, and the sulphur globe at the other end, both globes in motion, no spark could be obtained from the conductor, unless when one globe turned slower, or was not in so good order as the other;
and then the spark was only in proportion to the difference, so that turning equally, or turning that slowest which worked best, would again bring the conductor to afford no spark.
I found also, that the wire of a phial charged by the glass globe, attracted a cork ball that had touched the wire of a phial charged by the brimstone globe, and vice versa, so that the cork continued to play between the two phials, just as when one phial was charged through the wire, the other through the coating, by the glass globe alone. And two phials charged, the one by the brimstone globe, the other by the glass globe, would be both discharged by bringing their wires together, and shock the person holding the phials.
From these experiments one may be certain, that your second, third, and fourth proposed experiments would succeed exactly as you suppose, though I have not tried them, wanting time. I imagine it is the glass globe that charges positively, and the sulphur negatively, for these reasons. 1. Though the sulphur globe seems to work equally well with the glass one, yet it can never occasion so large and distant a spark between my knuckle and the conductor, when the sulphur one is working, as when the glass one is used; which, I suppose, is occasioned by this, that bodies of a certain bigness cannot so easily part with a quantity of electrical fluid they have and hold attracted within their substance, as they can receive an additional quantity upon their surface by way of atmosphere. Therefore so much cannot be drawn out of the conductor, as can be thrown on it. 2. I observe, that the stream or brush of fire, appearing at the end of a wire, connected with the conductor, is long, large, and much diverging, when the glass globe is used, and makes a snapping (or rattling) noise; but, when the sulphur one is used,
it is short, small, and makes a hissing noise; and just the reverse of both happens, when you hold the same wire in your hand, and the globes are worked alternately; the brush is large, long, diverging, and snapping (or rattling), when the sulphur globe is turned; short, small, and hissing, when the glass globe is turned. When the brush is long, large, and much diverging, the body to which it joins seems to me to be throwing the fire out; and when the contrary appears, it seems to be drinking in. 3. I observe, that, when I hold my knuckle before the sulphur globe, while turning, the stream of fire between my knuckle and the globe seems to spread on its surface, as if it flowed from the finger; on the glass globe it is otherwise. 4. The cool wind (or what was called so), that we used to feel as coming from an electrified point, is, I think, more sensible when the glass globe is used, than when the sulphur one. But these are hasty thoughts. As to your fifth paradox, it must likewise be true, if the globes are alternately worked; but, if worked together, the fire will neither come up nor go down by the chain, because one globe will drink it as fast as the other produces it.
I should be glad to know, whether the effects would be contrary, if the glass globe is solid, and the sulphur globe is hollow; but I have no means at present of trying.
In your journeys, your glass globes meet with accidents, and sulphur ones are heavy and inconvenient. Query. Would not a thin plane of brimstone, cast on a board, serve on occasion as a cushion, while a globe of leather stuffed (properly mounted) might receive the fire from the sulphur, and charge the conductor positively? Such a globe would be in no danger of
breaking.* I think I can conceive how it may be done; but have not time to add more than that I am,
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN.
Mistake, that only Metals and Water were Conductors,
-Poke-weed a Cure for Cancers.
READ AT THE ROYAL SOCIETY, NOVEMBER 11TH, 1756.
Philadelphia, 23 April, 1752.
In considering your favor of the 16th past, I recollected my having wrote you answers to some queries concerning the difference between electrics per se, and non-electrics, and the effects of air in electrical experiments, which, I apprehend, you may not have received. The date I have forgotten.
We have been used to call those bodies electrics per se, which would not conduct the electric fluid. We once imagined that only such bodies contained that fluid; afterwards that they had none of it, and only educed it from other bodies; but further experiments showed our mistake. It is to be found in all matter we know of; and the distinctions of electrics per se, and non-electrics, should now be dropped as improper, and that of conductors and non-conductors assumed in its place, as I mentioned in those answers.
The discoveries of the late ingenious Mr. Symmer, on the positive and negative electricity produced by the mutual friction of white and black silk, &c., afford hints for farther improvements to be made with this view.
I do not remember any experiment by which it appeared that high-rectified spirit will not conduct; perhaps you have made such. This I know, that wax, rosin, brimstone, and even glass, commonly reputed electrics per se, will, when in a fluid state, conduct pretty well. Glass will do it when only red-hot. So that my former position, that only metals and water were conductors, and other bodies more or less such, as they partook of metal or moisture, was too general.
Your conception of the electric fluid, that it is incomparably more subtile than air, is undoubtedly just. It pervades dense matter with the greatest ease; but it does not seem to mix or incorporate willingly with mere air, as it does with other matter. It will not quit common matter to join with air. Air obstructs, in some degree, its motion. An electric atmosphere cannot be communicated at so great a distance, through intervening air, by far, as through a vacuum. Who knows, then, but there may be, as the ancients thought, a region of this fire above our atmosphere, prevented by our air, and its own too great distance for attraction, from joining our earth? Perhaps where the atmosphere is rarest, this fluid may be densest, and nearer the earth, where the atmosphere grows denser, this fluid may be rarer; yet some of it be low enough to attach itself to our highest clouds, and thence they becoming electrified, may be attracted by, and descend towards the earth, and discharge their watery contents, together with that ethereal fire. Perhaps the aurora boreales are currents of this fluid in its own region, above our atmosphere, becoming from their motion visible. There is no end to conjectures. As yet we are but novices in this branch of natural knowledge.
You mention several differences of salts in electrical experiments. Were they all equally dry? Salt is apt