Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Peter Collinson, 27 July 1750

To Peter Collinson

Copy: American Academy of Arts and Sciences1

Philada. July 27. 1750


Mr. Watson I believe wrote his Observations on my last Paper in Haste;2 without having first well considered the Experiments related in §17* which still appear to me decisive in the Question; Whether the Accumulation of Electrical Fire4 be in the Electrified Glass, or in the Non-electric Matter connected with the Glass? and to demonstrate that it is really in the Glass.

As to the Experiment that ingenious Gentleman mentions, and which he thinks conclusive on the other Side, I doubt not but he will change his Mind, when he is pleased to reflect,5 that, as one person applying the Wire of the charg’d Bottle to warmed6 Spirits in a Spoon held by another Person, both standing on the Floor, will fire the Spirits, and yet such Firing will not determine, whether the Accumulation was in the Glass or the Non-electric: So the placing another Person between them, standing on Wax, with a Bason in his Hand, into which the Water from the Vial is poured; while he at the Instant of pouring, presents a Finger of his other Hand to the Spirits, does not at all alter the Case: The Stream from the Vial, the Side of the Bason, with the Arms and Body of the Person on Wax,7 being all together but as one long Wire, reaching from the internal Surface of the Vial to the Spirits.8

I refer you to my next Paper for an Account of our Experiments on Animals.

Abbé Nolet has our Thanks for the Pains he took to discover the Truth relating to those pretended Italian Experiments, I gave you my Opinion of them in a former Letter.9

I want to know, how it was observed that the Firing a Cannon in the Park, Electrified the Glass of the Windows of the Treasury, mentioned by Dr. Hales in his Piece on Earthquakes.1

The rest on private affairs.2

To P. Collinson Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1Letter V in the Bowdoin MS, in Supplemental Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Part II (London, 1753), and in 1754 and 1760 editions; Letter VI in 1769 and 1774 editions.

2See above, III, 457.

3All printed editions omit: “of the third Letter.” Footnote in 1769 and 1774 editions: “See the paper entitled, ‘Farther Experiments, &c.’”

4In all printed editions: “the electrical fire.”

5In all printed editions: “I doubt not … pleased to reflect” is changed to “I persuade myself he will change his opinion of it, when he considers . …”

6In all printed editions: “warm” replaces “warmed.”

7In all printed editions: “the wax.”

8All printed editions omit the remainder of this letter, but include, as though it were a footnote, BF to Collinson, June 29, 1751 (see below, p. 143), about Waddell’s observations on the mariner’s compass in lightning storms.

9See above, III, 476, 483.

1Stephen Hales, “Some Considerations on the Causes of Earthquakes,” Phil. Trans., XLVI (1749–50), 680. The paper was read April 5, 1750.

2This line and the name of the addressee are in BF’s hand.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

º *Of the third Letter.3

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