Benjamin Franklin Papers

Certificate of Nomination to the Royal Society, 17 May 1759

Certificate of Nomination to the Royal Society

DS: The Royal Society, London

Franklin was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on April 29, 1756, and was formally admitted on Nov. 24, 1757.6 He attended meetings regularly, was a frequent guest at dinners of the Royal Society Club,7 and took an active part in the Society’s business, being elected a member of the Council in 1760, 1766, 1767, 1772. Between 1759 and 1774 he joined in recommending at least thirty-seven persons for election as fellows, in some instances, like that of John Winthrop of Harvard, probably initiating the action, in others supporting nominations first made by friends. Several of these candidates had made contributions to electrical science or other subjects in which he was interested, and many have appeared or will appear often in the pages of this edition.

The first recommendation Franklin signed was for Edward Hussey Delaval of Cambridge University, who was proposed on May 17, 1759, and elected the following December 6. The text of his certificate is printed in full below. Other certificates that Franklin signed nearly always followed the same general form, although they often mentioned the candidates’ particular fields more specifically. They will not be individually printed in this edition at their respective dates, but they are listed here in chronological order, showing their dates of nomination, not of election. All these nominating papers are in the archives of the Royal Society. Those in Franklin’s hand, or in which his name leads the list of nominators, are marked with an asterisk (*); probably they relate to people in whom he was especially interested. So far as possible the dates of birth and death of the candidates and brief indications of residence and special activities and interests are supplied.

Edward Hussey Delaval (1729–1814). May 17, 1759
Cambridge. Fellow of Pembroke College; chemist; electrician.

William Harrison (d. 1815). Feb. 7, 1765
London. Mathematician; assisted father John with chronometer.

Domenico, Marchese Caraccioli (1715–1789). Feb. 28, 1765
London. Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to the British King; mathematician and physicist.

John Lewin. March 21, 1765
London. Naturalist.

Richard Price (1723–1791). May 9, 1765
London. Clergyman; political economist.

*John Winthrop (1714–1779). June 27, 17658
Cambridge, Mass. Astronomer, mathematician.

John Mills (d. 1784?). June 1765
London. Agriculturist; author of The New and Complete System of Agriculture.

*Arthur Lee (1740–1792). Feb. 20, 17669
Williamsburg, Va. Physician.

Joseph Priestley (1733–1804). March 13, 1766
Warrington, Lancashire. Clergyman; teacher; historian of electricity.

Anthony Tissington. June 19, 1766
Stanwick, Derbyshire. Natural philosopher.

*Charles L’Epinasse. April 2, 1767
London. Mathematician.

Father Joseph-Etienne Bertier (1702–1783). Aug. 10, 1767
A father of the Oratory, Paris; professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at Mans and (later) Saumur.

M. [Louis-Joseph Plumard] de Dangeul (b. 1722). Feb. 26, 1768 (Not elected)1
Paris. Political economist.

Edward Spry. June 2, 1768 (Not elected)2
Totness, Devon. Physician; physicist.

Baron de Leutichauw. Nov. 11, 1768 (Not elected)3
Copenhagen. Identified only as “a Danish Nobleman and Doctor of Laws in the University of Oxford.”

Philipp Heinrich Seyberth. November 1768 (Not elected)4
Göttingen. Professor of civil law; mathematician.

*Jan Ingenhousz (1730–1799). Feb. 13, 1769
Vienna. Physician at the imperial court; physicist.

Timothy Lane. May 6, 1769
London. Apothecary; electrician.

Charles LeRoy (1726–1779). Nov. 16, 1769
Montpellier, France. Professor of medicine; chemist.

William Hewson (1739–1774). Dec. 7, 1769
London. Anatomist and physiologist; Copley medalist, 1769.

James Welsh (d. 1778). Dec. 14, 1769
Winchester. Physician.

John Arbuthnot. April 21, 1770
Mitcham, Surrey. Agriculturist.

Robert Erskine. June 28, 1770
London. Mathematician; engineer.

*Alexander Dalrymple (1737–1808). Nov. 8, 1770
London. Mathematician; geographer.

George Walker (c. 1734–1807). Feb. 21, 1771
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Clergyman; mathematician.

Alexander Aubert (1730–1805). May 16, 1771
London. Merchant; astronomer.

Jean-Baptiste LeRoy (1720–1800). Sept. 5, 1772
Paris. Philosopher; electrician.

*Patrick Brydone (1736–1818). Nov. 24, 1772
Berwickshire. Electrician; traveler.

Edward Bancroft (1744–1821). Feb. 18, 1773
London. Physician; author of The Natural History of Guiana.

*William Henley [Henly] (d. 1779). Feb. 18, 1773
London. Linen-draper; electrician.

Alexander Garden (c. 1730–1791). March 4, 1773
Charleston, S.C. Physician; botanist.

*John Coakley Lettsom (1744–1815). April 28, 1773
London. Physician; philanthropist.

Pierre-Isaac Poissonier (1720–1798). Oct. 25, 1773
Paris. Physician; chemist.

Anthony George [Anton Georg] Eckhardt. Nov. 15, 1773
The Hague. Inventor.

John Mervin Nooth. Nov. 23, 1773
London. Physician.

John Hyacinth de Magalhaens (1723–1790). Jan. 20, 1774
London. Instrument maker.

Richard Twiss (1747–1821). March 3, 1774
Norwich. Traveler; writer.

[17 May 1759.]

Edward Delaval M.A and Fellow of Pembroke Hall in Cambridge,5 being personally known to us, and desirous of being elected into the Royal Society, we recommend him as a Gentleman extremely well qualify’d to become a valuable Member.

Francis Blake6
B Franklin
B: Wilson7

17 May 1759.

1 May 24.

2 — 31.

3 June 14.

4 — 21.

5 — 28.

6 July- 5.

7 Novr.- 8.

8 — 15.

9 — 22.

10 — 30.

Decr. 6. Ballotted and Elected

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6See above, VI, 375–6, for the certificate of his nomination and a summary of the Royal Society’s rules on elections.

7Archibald Geikie, Annals of the Royal Society Club (London, 1917), pp. 69 et passim.

8A draft is in APS. At the bottom a clerk has noted: “Benj: Franklin signed a Bond for him for his Contributions and paid his Admission fee in November 1767.”

9Clerk’s notation at bottom: “Benjamin Franklin LLD signed a Bond for him for his Contributions and paid his Admission fee in December 1767.”

1This paper does not follow the usual form. It is written in French and dated “a Paris ce 26 fevrier 1768,” and most of the nine signers were French members. Probably BF and the other resident members who signed did so as a courtesy. On the second page John Pringle (who had already signed) wrote “London 20 March 1768” and signed again. A further notation reads “Read Novr. 10. 1768,” but the paper bears no record of the display at ten further meetings required before election might take place.

2Notation following entry of the ten meetings at which a certificate was displayed: “Jany. 12. 1769 Ballotted and Rejected 23 A. 21 N.” A two-thirds majority of those present and voting was necessary for election.

3Possibly a phonetic version of the name of some member of the Levetzau family. The Oxford lists of degrees have no such name or variation. The certificate contains no record of the reading, display, or ballot on this nomination.

4The certificate contains no record of the reading, display, or ballot on this nomination.

5Edward Hussey Delaval (1729–1814), of an old Northumberland family. An accomplished classicist, he was also interested in chemistry and electricity. Benjamin Wilson, one of his nominators, had read to the Royal Society, March 22, 1759, a letter from Delaval to himself on electricity. Phil. Trans., LI (1759), 83. In 1769 he was a member of a committee of the Society with BF to report on the protection of St. Paul’s Cathedral from lightning. Later (1773) he sided with Wilson against BF in favor of using blunt instead of pointed lightning rods to protect buildings. He experimented with the use of various metals in making glass and received the Copley Medal, 1769, for a paper on this subject. DNB. BF saw and heard Delaval’s set of musical glasses and was so “charmed with the sweetness of its tones” that, using the same principle, he invented a new musical instrument, the armonica, which enjoyed great vogue. BF to Giambatista Beccaria, July 13, 1762.

6Francis Blake (1708–1780), F.R.S., 1746. His father Robert was a member of a family from Galway who by his marriage had acquired lands in Durham Co. The son devoted much of his time to mathematics and mechanics, and during the Rebellion of 1745 actively supported the government. He was created a baronet in 1774. DNB.

7See above, IV, 391 n.

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