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body of earth so moist as to receive readily from its end the quantity it conducted. The electric fluid therefore, thus accumulated near the lower end of the rod, quitted it at the surface of the earth, dividing in search of other passages. Part of it tore up the surface in furrows, and made holes in it; part entered the bricks of the foundation, which being near the earth are generally moist, and, in exploding that moisture, shattered them. (See page 393.) Part went through or under the foundation, and got under the hearth, blowing up great part of the bricks (m) (s), and producing the other effects (o) (p) (9) (). The iron dogs, loggerhead, and iron pot were not hurt, being of sufficient substance, and they probably protected the cat. The copper tea-kettle, being thin, suffered some damage. Perhaps, though found on a sound part of the hearth, it might at the time of the stroke have stood on the part blown up, which will account both for the bruising and melting.
That it ran down the inside of the chimney (k), I apprehend must be a mistake. Had it done so, I imagine it would have brought something more than soot with it; it would probably have ripped off the pargeting, and brought down fragments of plaster and bricks. The shake, from the explosion on the rod, was sufficient to shake down a good deal of loose soot. Lightning does not usually enter houses by the doors, windows, or chimneys, as open passages, in the manner that air enters them ; its nature is, to be attracted by substances, that are conductors of electricity; it penetrates and passes in them, and, if they are not good conductors, as are neither wood, brick, stone, nor plaster, it is apt to rend them in its passage. It would not easily pass through the air from a cloud to a building, were it not for the aid afforded in its passage by
intervening fragments of clouds below the main body, or by the falling rain.
It is said, that the house was filled with its flash (1). Expressions like this are common in accounts of the effects of lightning, from which we are apt to understand, that the lightning filled the house. Our language indeed seems to want a word to express the light of lightning, as distinct from the lightning itself. When a tree on a hill is struck by it, the lightning of that stroke exists only in a narrow vein between the cloud and tree, but its light fills a vast space many miles round; and people at the greatest distance from it are apt to say,“ The lightning came into our rooms thrcugh our windows.” As it is in itself extremely bright, it cannot, when so near as to strike a house, fail illuminating highly every room in it through the windows; and this I suppose to have been the case at Mr. Maine's; and that, except in and near the hearth, from the causes above mentioned, it was not in any other part of the house; the flush meaning no more than the light of the lightning. It is for want of considering this difference, that people suppose there is a kind of lightning not attended with thunder. In fact, there is probably a loud explosion accompanying every flash of lightning, and at the same instant; but as sound travels slower than light, we often hear the sound some seconds of time after having seen the light; and as sound does not travel so far as light, we sometimes see the light at a distance too great to hear the sound.
(n) The breaking some pieces of China in the buffet, may nevertheless seem to indicate that the lightning was there; but, as there is no mention of its having hurt any part of the buffet, or of the walls of the house, I should rather ascribe that effect to the concussion of the air, or shake of the house, by the explosion.
Thus to me it appears, that the house and its inhabitants were saved by the rod, though the rod itself was unjointed by the stroke; and that, if it had been made of one piece, and sunk deeper in the earth, or had entered the earth at a greater distance from the foundation, the mentioned small damages (except the melting of the points) would not have happened.
TO MISS MARY STEVENSON.
Concerning the Leyden Bottle.
London, 22 March, 1762.
I must retract the charge of idleness in your studies, when I find you have gone through the doubly difficult task of reading so big a book, on an abstruse subject, and in a foreign language.
In answer to your question concerning the Leyden phial. The hand that holds the bottle receives and conducts away the electric fluid that is driven out of the outside by the repulsive power of that which is forced into the inside of the bottle. As long as that power remains in the same situation, it must prevent the return of what it had expelled; though the hand would readily supply the quantity if it could be received.' Your affectionate friend,
Electrical Experiments on Amber.
Saturday, 3 July, 1762. To try, at the request of a friend, whether amber finely powdered might be melted and run together again by means of the electric fluid, I took a piece of small glass tube, about two inches and a half long, the bore about one twelfth of an inch diameter, the glass itself about the same thickness. I introduced into this tube some powder of amber, and with two pieces of wire nearly fitting the bore, one inserted at one end, the other at the other, I rammed the powder hard between them in the middle of the tube, where it stuck fast, and was in length about half an inch. Then, leaving the wires in the tube, I made them part of the electric circuit, and discharged through them three rows of my case of bottles. The event was, that the glass was broke into very small pieces and those dispersed with violence in all directions. As I did not expect this, I had not, as in other experiments, laid thick paper over the glass to save my eyes, so several of the pieces struck my face smartly, and one of them cut my lip a little, so as to make it bleed. I could find no part of the amber; but the table where the tube lay was stained very black in spots, such as might be made by a thick smoke forced on it by a blast, and the air was filled with a strong smell, somewhat like that from burnt gunpowder. Whence I imagined, that the amber was burnt, and had exploded as gunpowder would have done in the same circumstances.
That I might better see the effect on the amber, I made the next experiment in a tube formed of a card rolled up and bound strongly with packthread. Its bore was about one eighth of an inch diameter. I rammed powder of amber into this as I had done into the other, and, as the quantity of amber was greater, I increased the quantity of electric fluid, by discharging through it at once five rows of my bottles. On opening the tube, I found that some of the powder had exploded; an impression was made on the tube, though
it was not hurt, and most of the powder remaining was turned black, which I suppose might be by the smoke forced through it from the burned part; some of it was hard; but, as it powdered again when pressed by the fingers, I suppose that hardness not to arise from melting any parts in it, but merely from my ramming the powder when I charged the tube.
FROM JOHN WINTHROP
TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
New Observation relating to Electricity in the At
Cambridge, New England, 29 September, 1762. SIR, There is an observation relating to electricity in the atmosphere, which seemed new to me, though perhaps it will not to you; however, I will venture to mention it. I have some points on the top of my house, and the wire where it passes within-side the house is furnished with bells, according to your method, to give notice of the passage of the electric fluid. In summer these bells generally ring at the approach of a thundercloud, but cease soon after it begins to rain. In winter, they sometimes, though not very often, ring while it is snowing ; but never, that I remember, when it rains. But what was unexpected to me was, that, though the bells had not rung while it was snowing, yet the next day, after it had done snowing, and the weather was cleared up, while the snow was driven
* Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Harvard University, and Fellow of the Royal Society. - Editor.