Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from James Logan, 23 February 1747

From James Logan

Transcript: Harvard College Library (Sparks)

Stenton February 23. 1747

My friend B. Franklin,

Yesterday was the first time that I ever heard one syllable of thy Electrical Experiments, when John Bartram surpriz’d me with the account of a Ball turning many hours about an Electrified Body, with some other particulars that were sufficiently amazing. I have now by me Fr: Hawkesbee’s Experiments printed in 17096 and saw his whole Apparatus in 1710 amongst which he had a Globe with thrums in it, which being whirled round with a wheel excited fire &c. I have also seen St: Grey’s7 account of his discovering what he did by his fixing on a ball of Wax, which is the last I think he ever gave that Society in or about the year 1738, when he died. Therefore only to the English that most remarkable Discovery as well as that equally surprizing one of the Magnetism by Dr. Gowen Knight8 is due, and the further Improvements whether by the Germans, Low Dutch or French (of whose Experiments by one called Buffon9 Peter Collinson sent me this last Summer a printed piece). But your own Experiments in my judgment exceed them all. I could therefore wish as soon as it can suit thee that thou wouldst step up hither bringing an Account with thee, (as well as of?)1 of your last addition to your Library2 both which especially the first will very much oblige thy assured friend

J. Logan

It would be no small addition to the favour if thou couldst conveniently bring with thee some of the Apparatus as the Glass Tube.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Francis Hauksbee (d. 1713?), an early experimenter in electricity, who described an electrical discharge as appearing “like Flashes of Lightning,” but without appreciating the identity. He invented an electrical machine consisting of “a pretty large glass cylinder, turned by a winch and rubbed by hand”; and wrote Physico-Mechanical Experiments (London, 1709; 2d edit., 1719). DNB; Cohen, BF’s Experiments, pp. 32–6. Not to be confused with the chemist and mechanician of the same name (1687–1763).

7Stephen Gray (d. 1736), F. R. S., whose papers in Phil. Trans. attracted wide attention and stimulated theoretical speculation. He provided the concept of static electricity. DNB; Cohen, BF’s Experiments, pp. 37–41. The experiment with the cake of rosin was dictated by Gray the day before he died, and was published in Phil. Trans., XXXIX (1738), 400–3.

8Gowin Knight (1713–1772), F. R. S., studied the effects of lightning on the ship’s compass; received the Royal Society’s Copley Medal, 1747. He made a special study of magnetism, manufactured artificial magnets, and made improvements in the compass which the Admiralty adopted. He was appointed first Principal Librarian of the British Museum, 1756. DNB. Knight’s account of this experiment is in Phil. Trans., XLIII (1745), 161–6.

9Georges-Louis Le Clerc, Comte de Buffon (1707–1788), naturalist. He informed Turbervill Needham of French experiments in electricity, especially Monnier’s, 1746; Needham reported them to the Royal Society, Oct. 23, 1746. Phil. Trans., XLIV (1748), 247–63. Buffon suggested to Dalibard, 1751, that BF’s electrical experiments be translated into French.

1Apparently inserted by Sparks’s copyist.

2The Library Company’s Catalogue. See below, p. 113 n.

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