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Chenbroek, of Leyden, which had much perplexed philosophers. He showed clearly, that the bottle, when charged, contained no more electricity than before, but that as much was taken from one side as was thrown on the other; and that, to discharge it, nothing was necessary but to produce a communication between the two sides, by which the equilibrium might be restored, and that then no signs of electricity would remain. Hé afterwards demonstrated, by experiments, that the electricity did not reside in the coating, as had been supposed, but in the pores of the glass itself. After a phial was charged, he removed the coating, and found that, upon applying a new coating the shock might still be received. In the year 1749, he first suggested his idea of explaining the phenomena of thunder gusts, and of the aurora borealis, upon electrical principles. He points out many particulars in which lightning and electricity agree; and he adduces many facts, and reasonings from facts, in support of his positions. In the same year he conceived the astonishingly bold and grand idea of ascertaining the truth of his doctrine, by actually drawing down the lightning, by means of sharp pointed iron rods raised into the region of the clouds. Even in this uncertain state, his passion to be useful to mankind displays itself in a powerful manner. Admitting the identity of electricity and lightning, and knowing the power of points in repelling bodies charged with electricity, and in conducting their fire silently and imperceptibly, he suggested the idea of securing houses, ships, &c. from being damaged by lightning, by erecting pointed rods, that should rise some feet above the most elevated part, and descend some feet into the ground or the water. The effect of these, he concluded, would be either to prevent a stroke by repelling the cloud beyond the striking distance, or by drawing off the electrical fire which it contained; or if they could not effect this, they would at least conduct the electric matter to the earth, without any injury to the building.
It was not until the summer of 1752, that he was enabled to complete his grand and unparalleled discovery by experiment. The plan which he had originally proposed, was, to erect on some high tower, or other elevated place, a sentry-box, from which should rise a pointed iron rod, insulated by being fixed in a cake of resin. Electrified clouds passing over this, would, he conceived, impart to it a portion of their electricity, which would be rendered evident to the senses by sparks being emitted, when a key, the knuckle, or other conductor, was presented to it. Philadelphia at this time afforded no opportunity of trying an experiment of this
Withempen string tower end, whiching was, as usi
kind. While Franklin was waiting for the erection of a spire, it occurred to him that he might have more ready access to the region of clouds by means of a common kite. He prepared one by fastening two cross sticks to a silk handkerchief, which would not suffer so much from the rain as paper. To the upright stick was affixed an iron point. The string was, as usual, of hemp, except the lower end, which was silk. Where the hempen string terminated, a key was fastened. With this apparatus, on the appearance of a thunder-gust approaching, he went out into the commons, accompanied by his son, to whom alone he communicated his intentions, well knowing the ridicule which too generally, for the interests of science, awaits unsuccessful experiments in philosophy. He placed himself under a shade, to avoid the rain his kite was raised-a thunder-cloud passed over it-no sign of electricity appeared. He almost despaired of success, when, suddenly he observed the loose fibres of his string to move towards an erect position. He now presented his knuckle to the key, and received a strong spark. How exquisite must his sensations have been at this moment ! On this experiment depended the fate of his theory. If he succeeded, his name would rank high among those who had improved science : if he failed, he must inevitably be subjected to the derision of mankind, or what is worse, their pity, as a well meaning man, but a weak, silly projector. The anxiety with which he looked for the result of his experiment may be easily conceived. Doubts and despair had begun to prevail, when the fact was ascertained in so clear a manner, that even the most incredulous could no longer withhold their assent. Repeated sparks were drawn from the key, a phial was charged, a shock given, and all the experiments made which are usually performed with electricity
About a month before this period, some ingenious Frenchman had completed the discovery in the manner originally proposed by Dr. Franklin. The letters which he sent to Mr. Collinson, it is said, were refused a place in the “ Transactions of the Royal Society of London." However this may be, Collinson published them in a separate volume, under the title of “New Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia, in America. They were read with avidity, and soon translated into different languages. A very incorrect French translation fell into the hands of the celebrated Buffon, who, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which the work laboured, was much pleased with it, and repeated the experiments with success. He prevailed on his friend, M. D'Alibard, to give his coun
hd by M. Roard had left a it by Coifies
trymen a more correct translation of the works of the American electrician. This contributed much towards spreading a knowledge of Franklin's principles in France. The king, Louis XV. hearing of these experiments, expressed a wish to be a spectator of them. “A course of experiments was given at the seat of the DucD'Ayen, at St. Germain, by M. de Lor. The applauses which the king bestowed upon Franklin, excited in Buffon, D' Alibard, and De Lor, an earnest desire of ascertaining the truth of his theory of thunder gusts. Buffon erected his apparatus on the tower of Montbar, M. D'Alibard at Mary-la-ville, and De Lor at his house in the Estrapade at Paris, some of the highest ground. in that capital, D'Alibard's machine first showed signs of electricity. On the 30th of May, 1752, a thundercloud passed over it, in the absence of M. D'Alibard, and a number of sparks were drawn from it by Coiffier, a joiner, with whom D'Alibard had left directions how to proceed, and by M. Raulet, the prior of Mary-laville. An account of this experiment was given to the Royal Academy of Sciences, hy M. D'Alibard, in a Memoir, dated May 13th, 1752. On the 18th of May, M. de Lor proved equally successful with the apparatus erected at his own house. These philosophers soon excited those of other parts of Europe to repeat the experiment, amongst whom none signalized themselves more than Father Beccaria, of Turin, to whose observ. ations, science is much indebted. Even the cold regions of Russia were penetrated by the ardour for discovery. Professor Richman bade fair to add much to the stock of knowledge on this subject, when an unför tunate flash from his conductor put a period to his existence. The friends of science will long remember. with regret, the amiable martyr to electricity.
By these experiments, Franklin's theory was established in the most convincing manner. When the truth of it could no longer be doubted, envy and vanity endeavoured to detract from its merit. That an American, an inhabitant of the obscure city of Philadelphia, the name of which was hardly known, should be able to make discoveries, and to frame theories, which had escaped the notice of the enlightened philosophers of Europe, was too mortifying to be admitted. He must certainly have taken the idea from some one else. An American, a being of an inferior order, make discoveries !_Impossible. It was said, that the Abbe Nollet. in 1748, had suggested the idea of the similarity of lightning and electricity in his Lecons' de physique. It is true that the Abbe mentions the idea, but he throws it out as a bare conjecture, and proposes nio mode of as
pleting to Fried it
certaining the truth of it. He himself acknowledges, that Franklin first entertained the bold thought of bringing lightning from the heavens, by means of pointed rods fixed in the air. The similarity of lightning and electricity is so strong, that we need not be surprised at notice being taken of it, as soon as electrical phenomena became familiar. We find it mentioned by Dr. Wall and Mr. Grey, while the science was in its infancy. But the honour of forming a regular theory of thunder-gusts, of suggesting a mode of determining the truth of it by experiments, and of putting these experiments in practice, and thus establishing the theory upon a firm and solid basis, is incontestibly due to Franklin. D’Alibard, who made the first experiments in France, says, that he only followed the track which Franklin had pointed out.
It has been of late asserted, that the honour of completing the expriment with the electrical kite, does not belong to Franklin. Some late English paragraphs have attributed it to some Frenchman, whose name they do not mention; and the Abbe Bertholon gives it to M. de Romas, assessor to the presideal of Nirac: the English paragraphs probably refer to the same person. But a very slight attention will convince us of the injustice of this procedure. Dr. Franklin's experiment was made in June, 1752; and his letter, giving an account of it, is dated October 19, 1752. M. de Romas made his first attempt on the 14th of May, 1753, but was not successful until the 7th of June ; a year after Franklin had completed the discovery, and when it was known to all the philosophers in Europe. ;
Besides these great principles, Franklin's letters on electricity contain a number of facts and hints, which have contributed greatly towards reducing this branch of knowlege to a science. His friend Mr. Kinnersley communicated to him a discovery of the different kinds of electricity, excited by rubbing glass and sulphur. This, we have said, was first observed by M. du Faye ; but it was for many years neglected. The philosophers were disposed to account for the phenomena, rather from a difference in the quantity of electricity collected, and even Du Faye himself seems at last to have adopted this doctrine. Franklin at first entertained the same, idea; but, upon repeating the experiments, he per il ceived that Mr. Kinnersley was right; and that the vitreous and resinous electricity of Du Faye were nothing more than the positive and negative states which i ne had before observed; and that, the glass globe charged positively, or increased the quantity of elec-3. tricity on the prime conductor, while the globe of sul
entered the stock 52, Frankl the states olnts he forn
plur diminished its natural quantity, or charged negatively. These experiments and observations opened a new field for investigation, upon which electricians entered with avidity; and their labours have added much to the stock of our knowledge.
In September, 1752, Franklin entered upon a course of experiments, to determine the states of electricity in the clouds. From a number of experiments he formed this conclusion:-“That the clouds of a thunder gust are most commonly in a negative state of electricity, but sometimes in a positive state;" and from this it follows, as a necessary consequence, “that for the most part, in thunder strokes, it is the earth that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strikes into the earth.” The letter containing these observations is dated in September, 1753 ; and yet the discovery of ascending thunder has been said to be of a modern date, and has been attributed to the Abbe Bertholon, who published his memoir on the subject in 1776.
Franklin's letters have been translated into most of the European languages, and into Latin. In proportion as they have become known, his principles have been adopted. Some opposition was made to his theories, particularly by the Abbe Nollet, who was, however, but feebly supported, while the first philosophers in Europe stepped forth in defence of Franklin's principles, amongst whom D’Alibard and Beccaria were the most distinguished. The opposition has gradually ceased, and the Franklinian system is now universally adopted, where science flourishes.
The important practical use which Franklin made of his discoveries, the securing of houses from injury by lightning, has been already mentioned. Pointed conductors are now very common in America ; but prejudice has hitherto prevented their general introduction into Europe, notwithstanding the most undoubted proofs of their utility have been given. But mankind can with difficulty be brought to lay aside established practices, or to adopt new ones. And perhaps we have more reason to be surprised that a practice, however rational, which was proposed about forty years ago, should in that time have been adopted in so many places, than that it has not universally prevailed. It is onJy by degrees that the great body of mankind can be led into new practices, however salutary their tendency. It is now nearly eight years since inoculation was introduced into Europe and America, and it is so far froin heing oneral at present, that it will require one or two centuries to render it so.''
In the year 1745, Franklin published an account of
should in that it has not univody of mankind tendency.