Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

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 consider able time without any nourishment whatever. A plant with its flowers, fades and dies immediately if exposed to the air without having its roots immersed in a humid soil, from which it may draw a sufficient quantity 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 colour. 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,

[graphic]

“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 it was bottled in Virginia to be sent to London. At the opening of one of the bottles, at the house of a friend, where I 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 them. 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 by degrees began to recover life. They commenced by some convulsive motions in 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 until 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 an ordinary death the being immersed in a cask of Madeira wine, with a few friends, until that time, then to be 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 see such an art brought in our time to 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."

AN ECONOMICAL PROJECT. “An Economical Project," was another of Franklin's pieces, abounding in his peculiar vein of humour, which he dashed off about the same time, with the preceding “Observations.” The letter appeared in one of the Parisian daily papers.

To the Authors of the Journal. "MESSIEURS--You often entertain us with accounts of new discoveries. Permit me to communicate to the public, through your paper, one that has lately been made by myself, and which I conceive may be of great utility.

“I was the other evening in a grand company, where the new lamp of Messrs. Quinquet and Lange was introduced, and much admired for its splendour ; but a general inquiry was made, whether the oil it consumed was in proportion to the light it afforded, in which case there would be no saving in the use of it. No one present could satisfy us on that point, which all agreed ought to be known, it being a very desirable thing to lessen, if possible, the expense of lighting our apartments, when every other article of family expense was so much augmented.

“ I was pleased to see this general concern for economy, for I love economy exceedingly.

“I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject. An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light, and I imagined at first that a number of those lamps had been brought into it; but rubbing my eyes, I perceived that the light came in at the windows. I got up, and looked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber-my domestic having negligently omitted the preceding evening to close the shutters.

I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was about six o'clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanack, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o'clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon, and seldom regarded the astronomical part of the almanack, will be as much astonished as I was when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this: I am certain of my fact. And having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result.

“Yet it so happens, that when I speak of this discovery to others, I can easily perceive by their countenances, though they forbear expressing it in words, that they do not quite believe me. One, indeed, who is a learned natural philosopher, has assured me, that I must certainly be mistaken as to the circumstance of the light coming into my room ; for it being well known, as he says, there could be no light abroad at that hour, it follows that none could enter from without; and that of consequence, my windows being acc left open, ins ead of letting in the light, had only served to let out the darkness : and he used many ingenious arguments to show me how I might, by that means, have been deceived. I own that he puzzled me a little, but he did not satisfy me; and the subsequent observations I made as above mentioned, confirmed me in my first opinion.

“This event has given rise, in my mind, to several serious and important reflections. I considered that, if I had not been awakened so early in the morning, I should have slept seven hours longer by the light of the sun, and in exchange have lived six hours the following night by

candle-light; and the latter being a much more expensive light than the former, my love for economy induced me to muster up what little arithmetic I was master of, and to make some calculations, which I shall give you, after observing that utility is, in my opinion, the test of value in matters of invention, and that a discovery which can be applied to no use, or is not good for something, is good for nothing.

“I took for the basis of my calculation the supposition that there are 100,000 families in Paris, and that these families consume in the night half a pound of bougies, or candles, per hour. I think this a moderate allowance, taking one family with another ; for though I believe some consume less, I know that many consume a great deal more. Then, estimating seven hours per day as the medium quantity between the time of the sun's rising and ours--he rising during the six following months from six to eight hours before noon, and there being seven hours of course per night in which we burn candles the account will stand thus: In the six months between the 20th of March and the 20th of September, there are nights .

183 Multiplication gives for the total number of hours

1,281 These 1,281 hours multiplied by 100,000, the number of inhabitants given

128,100,000 One hundred and twenty-eight millions and one hundred

thousand hours spent at Paris by candle-light, which at half a pound of wax and tallow per hour, gives the weight of

64,050,000 Sixty-four millions and fifty thousand of pounds, which,

estimating the whole at the medium price of thirty sols the pound, makes the sum of ninety-six millions and seventy-five thousand livres tournois

96,075,000 An immense sum that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles !

“If it should be said, that people are apt to be obstinately attached to old customs, and that it will be difficult to induce them to rise before noon, consequently my discovery can be of little use, I answer, nil desperandum. I believe all who have common sense, as soon as they have learnt from this paper it is day-light when the sun rises, will contrive to rise

.

with him ; and, to compel the rest, I would propose the following regulations :

“First-Let a tax be laid of a louis per window, on every window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun.

“ Second-Let the same salutary operation of police be made use of to prevent our burning candles, that inclined us last winter to be more economical in wood; that is, let guards be placed in the shops of the wax and tallow chandlers, and no family be permitted to be supplied with - more than one pound of candles per week.

“ Third-Let guards also be posted to stop all the coaches, &c. that would pass the streets after sunset, except those of physicians, surgeons, and midwives.

“ Fourth-Every morning as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set a-ringing; and if that is not sufficient, let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.

“All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days, after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity; for ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute. Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he shall go willingly to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours' sleep, he will rise more willingly at four the following morning. But this sum of ninetysix millions and seventy-five thousand livres, is not the whole of what may be saved by my economical project. You may observe, that I have calculated upon only one half of the year, and much may be saved in the other, though the days may be shorter. Besides, the immense stock of wax and tallow left unconsumed during the summer, will probably make candles much cheaper for the ensuing winter, and continue cheaper as long as the proposed reformation shall be supported.

For the great benefit of this discovery, thus freely communicated and bestowed by me on the public, I demand neither place, pension, exclusive privilege, nor any other reward whatever. I expect only to have the honour of it. And yet I know there are little envious minds who will, as usual, deny me this, and say that my invention was known to the ancients, and perhaps they may bring passages out of the old books in proof of it. I will not dispute with these people that the ancients knew not the sun would rise at certain hours; they possibly had, as we have, almanacks that predicted it: but it does not follow from hence, that they knew he gave light as soon as he rose. This is what I claim as my

66

« ZurückWeiter »