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distance, they will unite again, being in a natural state. When it is entirely removed, they will separate again, being then made negative. The excited glass in this experiment may represent a cloud positively charged, which you see is capable of producing in this manner all the different changes in the apparatus, without the least necessity for supposing any negative cloud.
I am nevertheless fully convinced, that there are negative clouds; because they sometimes absorb, through the medium of the apparatus, the positive electricity of a large jar, the hundredth part of which the apparatus itself would have not been able to receive or contain at once. In fact, it is not difficult to conceive that a large cloud, highly charged positively, may reduce smaller clouds to a negative state, when it passes above or near them, by forcing a part of their natural portion of the fluid either to their inferior surfaces, whence it may strike into the earth, or to the opposite side, whence it may strike into the adjacent clouds; so that, when the large cloud has passed off to a distance, the small clouds shall remain in a negative state, exactly like the apparatus ; the former (like the latter) being frequently insulated bodies, having communication neither with the earth nor with other clouds. Upon the same principle it may easily be conceived in what manner a large negative cloud may render others positive.
The experiment, which you mention, of filing your glass is analogous to one which I made in 1751, or 1752. I had supposed in my preceding letters, that the pores of glass were smaller in the interior parts than near the surface, and that on this account they prevented the passage of the electrical fluid. To prove whether this was actually the case or not, I ground one of my phials in a part where it was extremely thin, grinding it considerably beyond the middle, and very near to the opposite superficies, as I found, upon breaking it after the experiment. It was charged nevertheless after being ground, equally well as before, which convinced me, that my hypothesis on this subject was erroneous. It is difficult to conceive where the immense superfluous quantity of electricity on the charged side of a glass is deposited.
I send you my paper concerning Meteors, which was lately published here in the Philosophical Transactions, immediately after a paper by Mr. Hamilton on the same subject. I am, Sir, &c.
Mode of ascertaining whether the Power, giving a
Shock to those who touch either the Surinam Eel or the Torpedo, be Electrical.
1. Touch the fish with a stick of dry sealing-wax, or a glass rod, and observe if the shock be communicated by means of those bodies.
Touch the same fish with an iron, or other metalline rod.
If the shock be communicated by the latter body, and not by the others, it is probably not the mechanical effect, as has been supposed, of some muscular action in the fish, but of a subtile fluid, in this respect analogous at least to the electric fluid.
2. Observe farther, whether the shock can be conveyed without the metal being actually in contact with the fish, and, if it can, whether, in the space between, any light appear, and a slight noise or crackling be heard.
If so, these also are properties common to the electric fluid.
3. Lastly, touch the fish with the wire of a small Leyden bottle, and, if the shock can be received across, observe whether the wire will attract and repel light bodies, and you feel a shock, while holding the bottle in one hand, and touching the wire, with the other.
If so, the fluid, capable of producing such effects, seems to have all the known properties of the electric fluid.
ADDITION, 12 AUGUST, 1772,
In Consequence of the Experiments and Discoveries
made in France by Mr. Walsh, and communicated by him to Dr. Franklin.
LET several persons, standing on the floor, hold hands, and let one of them touch the fish, so as to receive a shock. If the shock be felt by all, place the fish flåt on a plate of metal, and let one of the
, persons holding hands touch this plate, while the person farthest from the plate touches the upper part of the fish with a metal rod; then observe, if the force of the shock be the same as to all the persons forming the circle, or is stronger than before.
Repeat this experiment with this difference; let two or three of the persons forming the circle, instead of holding by the hand, hold each an uncharged electrical bottle, so that the little balls at the end of the wires may touch, and observe, after the shock, if these wires will attract and repel light bodies, and if a ball of cork, suspended by a long silk string between the wires, a little distance from the bottles, will be alternately attracted and repelled by them.
Of Lightning, and the Methods (now used in America)
of securing Buildings and Persons from its mischievous Effects.
Paris, September, 1767. EXPERIMENTS made in electricity first gave philosophers a suspicion, that the matter of lightning was the same with the electric matter. Experiments afterwards made on lightning obtained from the clouds by pointed rods, received into bottles, and subjected to every trial, have since proved this suspicion to be perfectly well founded; and that whatever properties we find in electricity, are also the properties of lightning.
This matter of lightning, or of electricity, is an extreme subtile fluid, penetrating other bodies, and subsisting in them, equally diffused.
When, by any operation of art or nature, there happens to be a greater proportion of this fluid in one body than in another, the body which has most will communicate to that which has least, till the proportion becomes equal; provided the distance between them be not too great; or, if it is too great, till there be proper conductors to convey it from one to the other.
If the communication be through the air without any conductor, a bright light is seen between the bodies, and a sound is heard. In our small experiments, we call this light and sound the electric spark and snap; but, in the great operations of nature, the light is what we call lightning, and the sound (produced at the same time, though generally arriving later at our ears than the light does to our eyes,) is, with its echoes, called thunder.
If the communication of this fluid is by a conductor, it may be without either light or sound, the subtile fluid passing in the substance of the conductor.
If the conductor be good and of sufficient bigness, the fluid passes through it without hurting it. If otherwise, it is damaged or destroyed.
All metals and water are good conductors. Other bodies may become conductors by having some quantity of water in them, as wood, and other materials used in building; but, not having much water in them, they are not good conductors, and therefore are often damaged in the operation.
Glass, wax, silk, wool, hair, feathers, and even wood, perfectly dry, are non-conductors; that is, they resist instead of facilitating the passage of this subtile fluid.
When this fluid has an opportunity of passing through two conductors, one good and sufficient, as of metal, the other not so good, it passes in the best, and will follow it in any direction.
The distance at which a body charged with this fluid will discharge itself suddenly, striking through the air into another body that is not charged, or not so highly charged, is different according to the quantity of the fluid, the dimensions and form of the bodies themselves, and the state of the air between them. This distance, whatever it happens to be between any two bodies, is called their striking distance, as, till they come within that distance of each other, no stroke will be made.
The clouds have often more of this fluid in proportion than the earth ; in which case, as soon as they come near enough (that is, within the striking distance) or meet with a .conductor, the fluid quits them and strikes into the earth. A cloud fully charged with this fluid, if so high as to be beyond the striking distance from the earth, passes quietly without making noise or giving light; unless it meets with other clouds that have less.
Tall trees, and lofty buildings, as the towers and