Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Coleman, 12 October 1761

To William Coleman7

LAS: Yale University Library

London, Oct. 12. 1761

Dear Sir,

I have received your obliging Favours of July 16. and Augt. 15. for which I thank you.8

The Transit I think would not have appear’d at Philadelphia, if any body had been ready there to observe.9 It is so far West, that Venus was off the Sun’s Disk before he rose there. I send you Ferguson’s Book on the Subject to which I was a Subscriber, and also a large Scheme of the Transit he has since presented to me.1 At the next Meeting of the Society, which is in November, we shall have all the Observations laid before us, except the most remote, and I will immediately send you a Copy.2

I have not yet heard that the Books sent the Library Company by Becket,3 are got to Hand. Mr. Collinson sends a few, he tells me per this Ship. With the greatest Esteem, I am, Dear Friend Yours affectionately

B Franklin.

Addressed: To / William Coleman Esqr / Philadelphia

Endorsed: London October 12th. 1761 from B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7For Coleman, one of BF’s earliest Philadelphia friends, see above, II, 406 n.

8Not found, but probably containing comments on Lord Kames’s Principles of Equity; see below, p. 376.

9The transit of Venus, June 6, 1761, was not visible in the continental American colonies, and in any case, the one useful telescope in Philadelphia was out of commission at the time. Harry Woolf, The Transits of Venus: A Study of Eighteenth-century Science (Princeton, 1959); Brooke Hindle, The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America 1735–1789 (Chapel Hill, 1956), pp. 98–100. See above, IV, 415–22, for the efforts in America to observe the transit of Mercury in 1753 to provide information and experience useful for the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769.

1James Ferguson (above, VIII, 216 n) had published Astronomy Explained on Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles in 1756 with a second edition in 1757. It contained a method for using the transit of 1761 to determine the distances of the planets. His pamphlet A Plain Method of Determining the Parallax of Venus by her Transit over the Sun (London, 1761) was probably the “large Scheme” BF sent to Coleman.

2Brief reports on the observations in London were read at the Royal Society, June 11, 1761, and others from England and continental centers on Nov. 5, 12, 19, and 26, 1761, and Jan. 6, 1762, and were printed in Phil. Trans., LII (1761–62), Part I.

3The books BF had ordered through Thomas Becket in January; they were shipped on the Dragon, Capt. Hammett, which arrived in Philadelphia, May 24, 1761; see above, pp. 274–7.

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