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TO M. DUBOURG.
Observations on the prevailing Doctrines of Life
Your observations on the causes of death, and the experiments which you propose for recalling to life those who appear to be killed by lightning, demonstrate equally your sagacity and your humanity. It appears, that the doctrines of life and death, in general, are yet but little understood.
A toad buried in sand will live, it is said, till the sand becomes petrified; and then, being enclosed in the stone, it may
still live for we know not how many ages. The facts which are cited in support of this opinion are too numerous, and too circumstantial, not to deserve a certain degree of credit. As we are accustomed to see all the animals, with which we are acquainted, eat and drink, it appears to us difficult to conceive, how a toad can be supported in such a dungeon ; but if we reflect, that the necessity of nourishment, which animals experience in their ordinary state, proceeds from the continual waste of their substance by perspiration, it will appear less incredible, that some animals in a torpid state, perspiring less because they use no exercise, should have less need of aliment; and that others, which are covered with scales or shells, which stop perspiration, such as land and sea turtles, serpents, and some species of fish, should be able to subsist a considerable time without any nourishment whatever. A plant, with its flowers, fades and dies immediately, if exposed to the air without having its root immersed in
* Translated from M. Dubourg's edition of Franklin's Works, Vol. I. p. 327. It is without date, but the letter to which it is an answer is dated April 15th, 1773. - Editor.
a humid soil, from which it may draw a sufficient quan
a tity of moisture to supply that which exhales from its substance and is carried off continually by the air. Perhaps, however, if it were buried in quicksilver, it might preserve for a 'considerable space of time its vegetable life, its smell, and color. If this be the case, it might prove a commodious method of transporting from distant countries those delicate plants, which are unable to sustain the inclemency of the weather at sea, and which require particular care and attention. I have seen an instance of common flies preserved in a manner somewhat similar. They had been drowned in Madeira wine, apparently about the time when it was bottled in Virginia, to be sent hither (to London). At the opening of one of the bottles, at the house of a friend where I then was, three drowned flies fell into the first glass that was filled. Having heard it remarked, that drowned flies were capable of being revived by the rays of the sun, I proposed making the experiment upon these ; they were therefore exposed to the sun upon a sieve, which had been employed to strain them out of the wine. In less than three hours, two of them began by degrees to recover life. They commenced by some convulsive motions of the thighs, and at length they raised themselves upon their legs, wiped their eyes with their fore feet, beat and brushed their wings with their hind feet, and soon after began to fly, finding themselves in Old England, without knowing how they came thither. The third continued lifeless till sunset, when, losing all hopes of him, he was thrown away.
I wish it were possible, from this instance, to invent a method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner that they may be recalled to life at any period, however distant; for having a very ardent desire to see
and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to any ordinary death, the being immersed in a cask of Madeira wine, with a few friends, till that time, to be then recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But since in all probability we live in an age too early and too near the infancy of science, to hope to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection, I must for the present content myself with the treat, which you are so kind as to promise me, of the resurrection of a fowl or a turkey cock.
I am, &c.
TO WILLIAM DEANE.
A new-invented Carriage Wheel. — Explosion of Melt
ed Iron and Glass Drops in Water. — Stove for consuming the Smoke.
London, 11 April, 1773. DEAR SIR, Miss Martin that was, now Mrs. Blacker, being about to return to Dublin, I cannot omit the opportunity it gives me of chatting a little with one whose conversation afforded me so much pleasure and instruction while I was there.
I know of nothing new here, worth communicating to you, unless perhaps the new art of making carriage wheels, the fellies of one piece, bent into a circle and surrounded by a hoop of iron, the whole very light and strong, there being no crossed grain in the wood, which is also a great saving of timber. The wood is first steamed in the vapor from boiling water, and then bent by a forcible machine. I have seen pieces of wood so bent of six inches wide, and three and a half thick,
into a circle of four feet diameter. These, for duration,
, can only be exceeded by your iron wheels. Pray, have you completed that ingenious invention ?
What is become of honest Mr. Ketilby? Does he go on with his printing schemes, or has he got into some better employment ?
They tell us here, that some person with you has discovered a new moving power, that may be of use in mechanical operations; that it consists in the explosion of iron tears chilled suddenly from the melting state in cold water. That explosion I have often seen in drops of glass with wonder, understanding it no more than they did in the time of Hudibras, who makes a simile of it, which I repeat because it is probably so long since you read it.
“ Honor is like that glassy bubble,
And wits are cracked to find out why." May I ask you, if you know any thing of the application of this power, of which I have not at present the smallest conception ?
I have completed my stove, in which the smoke of the coal is all turned into flame, and operates as fuel in heating the room. I have used it all this winter, and find it answer even beyond my expectations. I purpose to print a little description of its use and construction, and shall send you a copy.
I hope Billy and Jenny cantinue, and always will continue, as happy as when I knew them. My best wishes attend them, being as ever, with sincere esteem,
TO M. DUBOURG.*
Concerning Dr. Starkut
4 May, 1773. The young physician whom I mentioned is dead, and all the notes which he had left of his curious experiments are by some accident lost between our friends Sir John Pringle and Dr. Huck (Saunders); but these gentlemen, if the papers cannot be recovered, it is to be presumed, will repeat the experiments themselves.
TO M. LE ROY.
Hospitals. - Effect of Cold Air on Diseases.
London, 22 June, 1773. However glad I was of the occasion, I forbore indulging myself in the pleasure of congratulating by the first post, my dear double confrere, on his election into our Royal Society, because Mr. Walsh undertook to give you the information, which would make a second expense unnecessary, and I saw I should soon have this opportunity by the favor of M. Poissonnière. I rejoice in the event, as you seemed anxiously concerned about it, and as we have done ourselves honor in distinguishing and associating a merit so universally known and acknowledged.
I am pleased to hear that you are engaged in the
* Translated from M. Dubourg's edition of Franklin's Works, Vol. II. p. 312.- Editor.
The works of Dr. Stark, including the experiments alluded to, have since been published. VOL. VI.