Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Perkins, February 1753

From John Perkins

ALS and AD: American Philosophical Society

Boston Feb [1753?]8


I send you inclosed a Short account of a Me[teor?]. You have on many accounts a Right to every new Th[ing?] in natural Phylosophy. I leave it to your [Resolu?]tion whether there be any Thing in my Notion of [torn] phenomena as I value your Thoughts upon every Thing. And tho’ ever so Short, Yet Sir Your very much ob[liged] and humble [Servant]

John Perkins

Addressed: For  Mr. Franklin Post-Master  Philadelphia

A Meteor &c.

A Few Years since in the Summer Quarter about 6.P.M. and a Clear Skie I saw a Train of Milk White Spotts, nearly contiguous and reaching about 20 Degrees East and West. They pass’d thirty Degrees in about a Minute of Time a little South of our Zenith. I tho’t no more of them till a few Days since on Recollection of the Particulars I imagin’d their apparent Motion owing to the Diurnal Rotation of the Earth. Their place about 15 Miles from the Surface and that this Region of the Atmosphear is Quiescent with respect to the Earth’s Motion. And I imagine this Quiescence to arise from a supernatant Trade from the Pole to the Equator supply’d by a constant ascent of our Atmosphear within or about the Artic Circle so as to roll over and descend to the Southern Parts of the Globe and suppose these Spotts appear’d in this part of it.

If this Conjecture be probable it may be natural to enquire what accidents it may occasion in it’s Passage with Regard to Weather and Winds.

Our under Trade vizt. the S.W. is Sometimes in some particular Place, more rarifi’d; and the Other may be more condens’d; in which Case probably it may sink down, and Cause an Accumulation by Stoping a part of the Trade, and then press through &c. Or it may form a Trough E. and W. and cut a Passage or force down through the Bottom of it with a southwardly Tendencie so as to pass S.W. under the Common Trade (while this takes its common Rout above) at the same Time filling the Heavens with Clouds and Rain.

I suppose the Remains of this Supream Trade which have escap’d Inundations by the way are lost in the Equinoctial Trade. I form’d some Queries upon these Matters which contain my Notions more fully, but [at] last thought it needless to send them to you who have such a happy Talent at Conjecture and so have omitted it.

To Mr: Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The mutilation of this MS and the separation of the letter from the enclosure make it impossible to fix subject or date with certainty. On the following reasoning the editors believe that the letter enclosed an account of meteors and that the date should be 1753: If the first partially missing word is in fact “Meteors”—even “Me” cannot be read with complete confidence—then the essay printed here (identified as Perkins’ by the handwriting) is probably the “short account” Perkins sent in February. As for the date, BF answered a Perkins letter in April and Perkins replied on May 14, commenting on BF’s remarks on “shooting stars” (see below, p. 488). It is quite possible that Perkins sent BF the paper on meteors in February, that BF returned comments on shooting stars in April, and that Perkins answered in May. This argument is plausible and perhaps even persuasive, but it is not conclusive. On the other hand, if the paper on meteors was not the enclosure Perkins sent in February, the editors are at a loss to date it, for, excepting two letters from Perkins in 1770, the Franklin-Perkins correspondence seems to have ended in 1753, and nothing suggests an earlier date for Perkins’ account of meteors.

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