Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Benjamin Wilson, 8 April 1759

From Benjamin Wilson1

ALS: American Philosophical Society

8 April 1759

Dear Sir

I have been considering Mr. Coldens experiment2 which we tried on Saturday last, and the appearances it affords seem not now so surprising, or indeed, curious, as I at first imagined. For the excited tube, you know, when opposed properly to the cork balls, attracts them a little: it must therefore electrify the balls plus, instead of minus: and not only the balls will be electrified plus, in some degree, but the threads by which they are suspended, together with the leaden covering of the vial. On bringing the excited tube nearer towards the balls they will be electrified plus to as great a degree as the tube, in such circumstances, is capable of doing it: and after that is effected, a repulsion will succeed between the balls and the tube: which must ever be the case when they are both equally electrified and by the same power.

I will endeavour to satisfy you that this is probably the fact by an experiment or two which are easily made when I see you next—in the meantime believe me Yours most affectionately

B Wilson

Addressed: To Doctor Franklyn3

Endorsed: Mr. Wilson

1On Benjamin Wilson, electrical scientist and portrait painter, see above, IV, 391 n, and this volume, pp. 239–63. The warm tone of this letter suggests the friendly relations existing between Wilson and BF before they came into sharp disagreement over the respective merits of rounded and pointed lightning rods.

2The reference is probably to an experiment described in David Colden’s paper sent to BF (for the second time) Oct. 26, 1758; see above, pp. 170–2.

3The earliest surviving use in a letter of the title by which BF was regularly addressed during the remainder of his life.

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