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more or less, I cannot from my memory be certain, we were to have an eclipse of the moon at Philadelphia, on a Friday evening, about nine o'clock. I intended to observe it, but was prevented by a northeast storm, which came on about seven, with thick clouds as usual, that quite obscured the whole hemisphere. Yet when the post brought us the Boston newspaper, giving an account of the effects of the same storm in those parts, I found the beginning of the eclipse had been well observed there, though Boston lies N. E. of Philadelphia about four hundred miles. This puzzled me, because the storm began with us so soon as to prevent any observation; and being a northeast storm, I imagined it must have begun rather sooner in places farther to the northeastward than it did at Philadelphia. I therefore mentioned it in a letter to my brother, who lived at Boston; and he informed me the storm did not begin with them till near eleven o'clock, so that they had a good observation of the eclipse; and upon comparing all the other accounts I received from the several colonies of the time of beginning of the same storm, and, since that, of other storms of the same kind, I found the beginning to be always later the farther northeastward. I have not my notes with me here in England, and cannot, from memory, say the proportion of time to distance, but I think it is about an hour to every hundred miles.
From thence I formed an idea of the cause of these storms, which I would explain by a familiar instance or two. Suppose a long canal of water stopped at the end by a gate. The water is quite at rest till the gate is open, then it begins to move out through the gate; the water next the gate is first in motion, and moves towards the gate; the water next to that first water moves next, and so on successively, till the water at the head of the canal is in motion, which is last of all. In this case all the water moves, indeed, towards the gate, but the suc
cessive times of beginning motion are the contrary way, viz., from the gate backward to the head of the canal. Again, suppose the air in a chamber at rest, no current through the room till you make a fire in the chimney. Immediately the air in the chimney, being rarefied by the fire, rises; the air next the chimney flows in to supply its place, moving towards the chimney; and, in consequence, the rest of the air successively, quite back to the door Thus, to produce our northeast storms, I suppose some great heat and rarefaction of the air in or about the Gulf of Mexico; the air, thence rising, has its place supplied by the next more northern, cooler, and, therefore, denser and heavier air; that, being in motion, is followed by the next more northern air, &c., in a successive current, to which current our coast and inland ridge of mountains give the direction of northeast, as they lie N. E. and S. W.
This I offer only as an hypothesis to account for this particular fact; and perhaps, on farther examination, a better and truer may be found. I do not suppose all storms generated in the same manner, Our northwest thunder-gusts in America, I know, are not; but of them I have written my opinion fully in a paper which you have seen.
To Dr. Lining, at Charleston.
ON COLD PRODUCED BY EVAPORATION.
New-York, April 14, 1757. It is a long time since I had the pleasure of a line from you; and, indeed, the troubles of our country, with the hurry of business I have been engaged in on that account, have made me so bad a correspondent, that I ought not to expect punctuality in others.
But, being about to embark for England, I could not quit the continent without paying my respects
to you, and, at the same time, taking leave to introduce to your acquaintance a gentleman of learning and merit, Colonel Henry Bouquet, who does me the favour to present you this letter, and with whom I am sure you will be much pleased.
Professor Simpson, of Glasgow, lately communicated to me some curious experiments of a physician of his acquaintance, by which it appeared that an extraordinary degree of cold, even to freezing, might be produced by evaporation. I have not had leisure to repeat and examine more than the first and easiest of them, viz.: wet the ball of a thermometer by a feather dipped in spirits of wine, which has been kept in the same room, and has, of course, the same degree of heat or cold. The mercury sinks presently three or four degrees, and the quicker if, during the evaporation, you blow on the ball with bellows; a second wetting and blowing, when the mercury is down, carries it yet lower. I think I did not get it lower than five or six degrees from where it naturally stood, which was at that time sixty. But it is said that a vessel of water, being placed in another somewhat larger, containing spirit, in such a manner that the vessel of water is surrounded with the spirit, and both placed under the receiver of an airpump; on exhausting the air, the spirit, evaporating, leaves such a degree of cold as to freeze the water, though the thermometer in the open air stands many degrees above the freezing point.
I know not how this phenomena is to be accounted for, but it gives me occasion to mention some loose notions relating to heat and cold, which I have for some time entertained, but not yet reduced into any form. Allowing common fire, as well as electrical, to be a fluid capable of permeating other bodies and seeking an equilibrium, I imagine some bodies are better fitted by nature to be conductors of that fluid than others; and that, general
ly, those which are the best conductors of the electric fluid are also the best conductors of this; and è contra.
Thus a body which is a good conductor of fire readily receives it into its substance, and conducts it through the whole to all the parts, as metals and water do; and if two bodies, both good conductors, one heated, the other in its common state, are brought into contact with each other, the body which has most fire readily communicates of it to that which had least, and that which had least readily receives it, till an equilibrium is produced, Thus, if you take a dollar between your fingers with one hand, and a piece of wood of the same dimensions with the other, and bring both at the same time to the flame of a candle, you will find yourself obliged to drop the dollar before you drop the wood, because it conducts the heat of the candle sooner to your flesh. Thus, if a silver teapot had a handle of the same metal, it would conduct the heat from the water to the hand, and become too hot to be used; we therefore give to a metal teapot a handle of wood, which is not so good a conductor as metal. But a China or stone teapot, being in some degree of the nature of glass, which is not a good conductor of heat, may have a handle of the same stuff. Thus, also, a damp, moist air shall make a man more sensible of cold, or chill him more than a dry air that is colder, because a moist air is fitter to receive and conduct away the heat of his body. This fluid, entering bodies in great quantity, first expands them, by separating their parts a little; afterward, by farther separating their parts, it renders solids fluid, and at length dissipates their parts in air. Take this fluid from melted lead or from water, the parts cohere again; the first grows solid, the latter becomes ice: and this is sooner done by the means of good conductors, Thus, if you take, as I have done, a square bar of
lead, four inches long and one inch thick, together with three pieces of wood planed to the same dimensions, and lay them on a smooth board, fixed so as not to be easily separated or moved, and pour into the cavity they form as much melted lead as will fill it, you will see the melted lead chill and become firm on the side next the leaden bar some time before it chills on the other three sides in contact with the wooden bars, though, before the lead was poured in, they might all be supposed to have the same degree of heat or coldness, as they had been exposed in the same room to the same air. You will likewise observe, that the leaden bar, as it has cooled the melted lead more than the wooden bars have done, so it is itself more heated by the melted lead. There is a certain quantity of this fluid, called fire, in every living human body; which fluid being in due proportion, keeps the parts of the flesh and blood at such a just distance from each other, as that the flesh and nerves are supple, and the blood fit for circulation. If part of this due proportion of fire be conducted away, by means of a contact with other bodies, as air, water, or metals, the parts of our skin and flesh that come into such contact first draw more near together than is agreeable, and give that sensation which we call cold; and if too much be conveyed away, the body stiffens, the blood ceases to flow, and death ensues. On the other hand, if too much of this fluid be communicated to the flesh, the parts are separated too far, and pain ensues, as when they are separated by a pin or lancet. The sensation that the separation by fire occasions we call heat or burning. My desk on which I now write, and the lock of my desk, are both exposed to the same temperature of the air, and have, therefore, the same degree of heat or cold yet if I lay my hand successively on the wood and on the metal, the latter feels much the coldest; not that it is really so, but, being a better