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the same experiments. That no want of attention, therefore, may be attributed to those here, who have been hitherto conversant in these inquiries, I thought proper to apprize you, that, though several members of the Royal Society, as well as myself, did, upon the first advices from France, prepare and set up the necessary apparatus for this purpose, we were defeated in our expectations, from the uncommon coolness and dampness of the air here, during the whole summer. We had only at London one thunder-storm, namely, on July 20 th; and • then the thunder was accompanied with rain, so that, by wetting the apparatus, the electricity was dissipated too soon to be perceived upon touching those parts of the apparatus which served to conduct it. This, I say, in general prevented our verifying Mr. Franklin's hypothesis; but our worthy brother, Mr. Canton, was more fortunate. I take the liberty, therefore, of laying before you an extract of a letter, which I received from that gentleman, dated from Spital Square, July 21st, 1752.
"I had yesterday, about five in the afternoon, an opportunity of trying Mr. Franklin's experiment of extracting the electrical fire from the clouds, and succeeded, by means of a tin tube, between three and four feet in length, fixed to the top of a glass one, of about eighteen inches. To the upper end of the tin tube, which was not so high as a stack of chimneys on the same house, I fastened three needles with some wire; and to the lower end was soldered a tin cover to keep the rain from the glass tube, which was set upright in a block of wood. I attended this apparatus as soon after the thunder began as possible, but did not find it in the least electrified, till between the third and fourth clap; when, applying my knuckle to. the edge of the cover, I felt and heard an electrical spark; and,
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approaching it a second time, I received the spark at the distance of about half an inch, and saw it distinctly. This I repeated four or five times in the space of a minute, but the sparks grew weaker and weaker; and in less than two minutes the tin tube did not appear to be electrified at all. The rain continued during the thunder, but was considerably abated at the time of making the experiment." Thus far Mr. Canton.
Mr. Wilson likewise of the Society, to whom we are much obliged for the trouble he has taken in these pursuits, had an opportunity of verifying Mr. Franklin's hypothesis. He informed me, by a letter from near Chelmsford, in Essex, dated August 12th, 1752, that, on that day about noon, he perceived several electrical snaps, during, or rather at the end of a thunder-storm, from no other apparatus than an iron curtain-rod, one end of which he put into the neck of a glass phial, and held this phial in his hand. To the other end of the iron he fastened three needles with some silk. This phial, supporting the rod, he held in one hand, and drew snaps from the rod with a finger of his other. This experiment was not made upon any eminence, but in the garden of a gentleman, at whose house he then was.
Dr. Bevis observed, at Mr. Cave's, at St. John's Gate, nearly the same phenomena as Mr. Canton, of which an account has been already laid before the public.
Trifling as the effects here mentioned are, when compared with those which we have received from Paris and Berlin, they are the only ones that the last summer here has produced; and, as they were made by persons worthy of credit, they tend to establish the authenticity of those transmitted from our correspondents.
I flatter myself, that this short account of these matters will not be disagreeable to you; and am, With the most profound respect,
Your most obedient humble servant,
sufficient to knock a stout man down; and I believe a stroke from two or three, in the head, would kill him. Has Dr. Colden's new book reached you in Boston? If not, I will send it to you. With great respect, I am, Sir,
Your most humble servant,
P. S. The glass-maker being from home, I cannot now get the account. The tin is laid on with common paste, made of flour and water boiled together, and the pieces may lap over each other a little.
TO PETER COLLINSON. .
Hypothesis of the Sea being the grand Source of Lightning retracted. — Positive, and sometimes negative, Electricity of the Clouds discovered.—JVew Experiments and Conjectures in Support of this Discovery. — Observations recommended for ascertaining the Direction of the Electric Fluid. — Size of Rods for Conductors to Buildings. — Appearance of a Thunder-cloud described.
Philadelphia, September, 1753.
In my former paper, on this subject, written first in 1747, enlarged and sent to England in 1749, I considered the sea as the grand source of lightning, imagining its luminous appearance to be owing to electric fire, produced by friction between the particles of water and those of salt. ^Living far from the sea, I had then no opportunity of making experiments on the sea water, and so embraced this opinion too hastily.
For, in 1750 and 1751, being occasionally on the seacoast, I found, by experiments, that sea water in a bottle, though at first it would by agitation appear luminous, yet in a few hours it lost that virtue; hence and from this, that I could not by agitating a solution of sea salt in water produce any light, I first began to doubt of my former hypothesis, and to suspect, that the luminous appearance in sea water must be owing to some other principles.
I then considered whether it were not possible, that the particles of air, being electrics per se, might, in hard gales of wind, by their friction against trees, hills, buildings, &c., as so many minute electric globes, rubbing against non-electric cushions, draw the electric fire from the earth, and that the rising vapors might receive that fire from the air, and by such means the clouds become electrified.
If this were so, I imagined that by forcing a constant violent stream of air against my prime conductor, by bellows, I should electrify it negatively; the rubbing particles of air drawing from it part of its natural quantity of the electric fluid. I accordingly made the experiment, but it did not succeed.
In September, 1752, I erected an iron rod to draw the lightning down into my house, in order to make some experiments on it, with two bells to give notice when the rod should be electrified; a contrivance obvious to every electrician.
I found the bells rang sometimes when there was no lightning or thunder, but only a dark cloud over the rod; that sometimes, after a flash of lightning, they would suddenly stop; and at other times, when they had not rung before, they would, after a flash, suddenly begin to ring; that the electricity was sometimes very faint, so that, when a small spark was obtained, another could not be got for some time after; at other
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