Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Pieter van Musschenbroek, 15 April 1759

From Pieter van Musschenbroek4

ALS and AD: American Philosophical Society5

In response to a request transmitted through an unidentified clerical intermediary, Musschenbroek sent Franklin a list of European writers on electricity known to him. But in the covering letter he urged Franklin to continue his own electrical experiments. Since the air of Pennsylvania seemed to be very full of electricity (electricitatis plenissimus), he hoped the American would follow up his kite experiment (volante in altum serico) with others in which he would take particular note of the time of year and the meteorological conditions when they were conducted, adding thereby similar beautiful Pennsylvania discoveries (perpulcra inventa … Pensylvanica) to those he had already communicated through Collinson. Musschenbroek in turn would communicate other things to Franklin, as his aim was to promote physical and natural science as long as he should live.

Leydae 15. Aprilis 1759.

Vir Nobilissimo Amplissimoque Benjam. Franklino S P D
P: V: Musschenbroek

Vir reverendus, qui se ministerio Euangelico fungi profitebatur, me tuo nomine rogavit, ut indicarem Autores, qui de Electricitate scripserunt, mihique erant cogniti. Votis tuis lubenter[ius?] annui; ita addisces quid alii in Europa praestiterunt Eruditi, sed simul videbis neminem magis recondita mysteria Electricitatis detexisse Franklino; utinam modo pergas proprio marte capere experimenta, et alia incedere via, quam Europaei incesserunt, nam tum plura et alia deteges, quae seculorum spatio laterent Philosophos: Aer Pensylvanicus videtur esse electricitatis plenissimus; sed attende an per totum anni curriculum, an interdum pauperior sit: quibus anni diebus, quo flante vento, qua caeli constitutione: distingue nubes electricitatis plenas aut expertes, uti volante in altum serico incepisti detegere omnium primus: opto similia perpulcra inventa legere Pensylvanica, ac scripsisti in litteris ad Expertissimum Virum Collinsonum; sique mecum quaedam communicare digneris, Tecum alia communicabo, nam meus scopus est Scientiam physicam et naturalem promovere quam diu vivam. Tu sis amicissime salutatus a Tui benevolentissimo cultore, et vale.

Addressed: Monsieur / Benjamin Franklin / Maitre des postes &c. &c. / en Pensylvanie


Schilling in Actis Berolin: tomo 47

Wheler in philos. Trans: no. 453, 454, 4628

Hausenius novi profectus in Historia Electricitatis9

Waitsius Neuen Deckte phaenomena1

Winklerus Abhandelingen von den Electricitaet 3 vol. philos.

Trans. no. 4822

Gordon Phaenomena Electricitatis exposita3

Kruger Zuschrift von der Electricitaet4

Bosius Commentarii de Electricitate

Recherche sur la cause de l’Electricité5

Kratzensteinius Theoria Electricitatis6

Nollet Essais sur l’Electricite. Recherces sur l’Electricité, Lettres sur L’Electricite7

Watson Experiments and Observations 2 vol.

Account of the Experiments. philos. Trans. no 489.8

Martin Essay on Electricité.9

Muller Schreiben von der Ursachen der Electricitaet1

Philosophical Transact: Vol: 47.2

Watkins peculiar account of Electricity3

Baker in Philos. Transact: No. 486.4

Jallabert Experiences sur L’Electricité5

Olivier de Villeneuve Essais sur l’Experiences de L Electricite:6 Suite du Memoire

Morin nouvelle dissertation sur l’Electricite7

Richmannus in Commentari petropol: Vol. XIV.8

Histoire Generale et particuliere de L’Electricité 3 Tomes.9a

Bohadsch dissertatio philosophica de utilitatione Electrisationis in morbis1a

daniel Gralath versuche der Natur forsch[enden] geselschafft2 Bammacarus de Electricitate3

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Pieter van Musschenbroek (1692–1761), Dutch natural philosopher. After holding successively a professorship at Duisburg and the chairs of natural philosophy and mathematics and of astronomy at Utrecht, 1719–39, he became professor of mathematics at Leyden, where he remained until his death, although he received flattering offers of positions in other countries. He is best known for his discovery of the Leyden jar, 1746, an achievement which he must share, however, with Ewald Georg von Kleist, who had made a similar accidental discovery in Pomerania a year earlier.

5In the early arrangement of the Franklin Papers at APS, the letter and its enclosure became widely separated; they are now found in that collection at I, 54, and XLIX, 43, respectively.

6Titles and works in Musschenbroek’s list are not always as full or as accurate as one might wish. They have been identified as far as possible in the footnotes with the aid of several published bibliographies, catalogues, and treatises, the most useful of which has been Sir Francis Ronalds, comp., Catalogue of Books and Papers relating to Electricity, Magnetism, the Electric Telegraph, &c. Including the Ronalds Library (London, 1880). It is possible that BF made this list available to Joseph Priestley for use in his The History and Present State of Electricity (London, 1767).

7Johann Jacob Schilling [b. 1702], “Observationes et Experimenta de vi electrica vitri aliorumque corporum,” Miscellanea Berolinensia, IV (Berlin, 1735), 334–43; V (1737), 109–12.

8Granville Wheler [d. 1770], “Some Electrical Experiments Chiefly Regarding the Repulsive Force of Electrical Bodies,” Phil. Trans., XLI (1739–41), 98–111 (no. 453); “A Letter … Containing Some Remarks on the Late Stephen Gray, His Electrical Circular Experiment,” ibid., XLI, 118 (no. 454); “Two Letters from G.W. to the President Concerning a Rotary Motion of Glass Tubes about Their Axes,” ibid., XLIII (1744–46), 341–5 (no. 476). Musschenbroek’s assignment of no. 462 to this paper in the Abridgement of Phil. Trans. appears to be in error.

9Christian August Hausen [1693–1743], Novus Profectus in Historia Electricitatis (Leipzig, 1743).

1Musschenbroek assigned the wrong author to this work; it should be Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr [1671–1750], Neu-entdeckte Phaenomena der electrischen Kraft … (Nurnberg, 1744).

2This work should be credited, apparently, to the author Musschenbroek assigned to that immediately above: Jacob Siegismund Waitz [1698–1777], Abhandlung: Von der Electricität und deren Ursachen; Zweite Abhandlung: Von der Natur der Electricität; Dritte Abhandlung: Von den Eigenschaften, Wirkungen und Ursachen der Electricität (Berlin, 1745). The purpose of the reference to Phil. Trans. here is not clear. Musschenbroek may also have intended to include in the list Johann Heinrich Winkler [1703–1770], Gedanken von den Eigenschaften, Wirkungen und Ursachen der Electricität, nebst einer Beschreibung zwo neuer elektrischen Maschinen (Leipzig, 1774).

3Andreas Gordon [1712–1751], Phaenomena electricitatis exposita (Erfurt [Erford], 1774).

4Johann Gottlob Krüger [1715–1759], Zuschrift an seine Zuhörer, worinn er ihnen seine Gedanken von der Elektricität mittheilet, und ihnen zugleich seine kunftigen Lectionen bekannt macht (Halle, 1744).

5Georg Matthias Böse [1710–1761], [Commentarius Primus] De Attractione et Electricitate Oratio Inauguralis. De Electricitate. Commentarius II: Quo simul ad capessendos honores magisteriales, et lauream poeticam invitabatur, 3 Novembre. De Electricitate inflammante et beatificante. Commentarius III. The first two were separately published, Wittenburg, 1743, and the third Wittenburg, 1744; the first and the commencement of the second and third were also published in Tentamina Electrica in Academiis Regalis Londinensi et Parisina primum … (Wittenburg, 1744). Same author, Recherches sur la cause et sur la véritable théorie de l’Electricité (Wittenburg, 1745).

6Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein [1723–1795], Theoria electricitatis more geometrico explicata (Halle, 1746).

7Jean-Antoine Nollet [1700–1770], Essai sur l’Electricité des corps (Paris, 1746); Recherches sur les causes particulières des phénomènes électriques (Paris, 1749); Lettres sur l’Electricité (Paris, 1753). On Nollet, and especially the last work listed, see above, IV, 423–8.

8William Watson [1715–1787], Experiments and Observations Tending to Illustrate the Nature and Properties of Electricity and A Sequel to the Experiments and Observations Tending to Illustrate the Nature and Properties of Electricity constitute the first title cited. The papers were first printed in Phil. Trans. in 1745 and then separately reprinted, London, 1746. The second work cited is “An Account of the Experiments Made … in Order to Measure the Absolute Velocity of Electricity,” Phil. Trans., XLV (1748), 491 (no. 489). On Watson, see above, III, 357 n.

9Benjamin Martin [1704–1782], An Essay on Electricity (Bath, 1746). For BF’s receipt of a copy of this work, see above, III, 134.

1Gerhard Andreas Muller [1718–1762], Schreiben an einem guten Freund von der Ursachen und dem Nutzen der Electricität (Weimar, 1746).

2This does not appear to be a reference to a paper by Muller but to the volume of Phil. Trans. in which appeared several important letters, including Mazeas’ report on Dalibard’s performance of BF’s proposed experiment to prove the identity of lightning and electricity. See above, IV, 315–17, 390–2, 467 n.

3Francis Watkins [dates not known], A Particular Account of the Electrical Experiments Hitherto Made Publick (London, 1747).

4Henry Baker [1698–1774], “Medical Experiments of Electricity,” Phil. Trans., XLV (1748), 270–5 (no. 486).

5Jean Jallabert [1712–1768], Expériences sur l’électricité, avec quelques conjectures sur ses causes et ses effets (Geneva, 1748).

6Olivier de Villeneuve [dates not known], Essai de Dissertation medicophysique sur les experiences de l’électricité (Paris, 1748). What Musschenbroek intended by “Suite du Memoire” is not clear.

7Jean Morin [1705–1764], Nouvelle Dissertation sur l’électricité des corps (Chartres, 1748).

8Georg Wilhelm Richmann [1711–1753], “De electricitate in corporibus producenda nova tentamina,” Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae, XIV (1744–46 [printed 1751]), 299–324. On Richmann’s death by lightning, see above, V, 155 n, 219–21.

9a [Abbé de Mangin, d. c. 1780], Histoire générale et particulière de l’électricité (3 vols., Paris, 1752).

1a Johann Baptist Bohadsch [1724–1768], Dissertatio de utilitate Electrisationis in Arte Medica (Prague, 1751). The title is so given by Ronalds from Volta’s copy in the Ronalds Library; British Museum Catalogue and other listings give variants.

2Daniel Gralath [1739–1809], “Geschichte der Electricität,” 3 articles in Versuche und Abhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Danzig, I (1747), 175–304; II (1754), 355–460; III (1756), 492–556; and “Electrische Bibliotheck,” 2 articles in ibid., II, 525–52; III, 265–328.

3Niccolò Bammacaro [d. c. 1778], Tentamen de vi Electrica eisque phaenominis (Naples, 1748).

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