Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Beccaria: résumé, 16 December 1779

From Beccaria7

ALS and copy:8 American Philosophical Society; four drafts: American Philosophical Society

<Turin, December 16, 1779, in Italian: Mr. Chantel gave me your very gracious letter and told me about the audience— most gratifying to me—with which you honored him. I am sorry that for the present time I do not have the energy I could wish to thank you properly in writing. To make up for it, I shall try to correspond in my usual vein of respectful esteem for your immortal discoveries.

I saw in the Journal of the Abbé Rozier your truly global thoughts on the phenomenon of the aurora borealis. I have at hand an old paper of mine, precisely on that subject.9 The fact that I observed directly an electrical aurora borealis may perhaps give it some merit. Meanwhile, you can imagine with how much pleasure I would benefit from some of the afterthoughts you promised me.

In order to comply with your gracious urgings, I am sending you herewith a list of the papers that I have published and that you may not have seen, and some of the many articles that I have readied for the press. If it pleases the Lord that I should regain my health, I shall indulge my inclination to experiment and to observe, and respond to the stimulus that your words have given me, implying that my recovery might be of some advantage to science.1 I shall never stop being, with utmost gratitude, and most respectfully, your most humble, most devoted servant Giambatista Beccaria de S P.2>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7In response to BF’s cordial message of Nov. 19, above. The ailing old cleric experienced a burst of exuberance upon hearing from his American friend, as Chantel, who forwarded this, remarked in his covering letter (Dec. 19, 1779, APS). Beccaria drafted three versions of the present letter, of which this one is the most pared down. The other two are quite similar to each other and mention Beccaria’s remark to Priestley that it was a great pity BF should have chosen the transient world of politics over the immutable world of nature and science. Priestley, he says, communicated that thought to the public. For a discussion of this correspondence see Antonio Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy (Philadelphia, 1958), pp. 60–2. The text of Chantel’s cover letter is given there on p. 378.

8The copy, in Beccaria’s hand and signed, is of the final version; the MSS listed as drafts are of earlier versions. The ALS and one of the drafts are printed in Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy, pp. 378–80. While all these documents are at the APS, only the ALS is among BF’s papers; the rest, which remained with the author, are in the Beccaria collection. See Antonio Pace, “The Manuscripts of Giambatista Beccaria, Correspondent of Benjamin Franklin,” APS Proc. XCVI (1952), 406–16.

9Possibly “Untitled draft of observations on the aurora borealis”: Pace, “Manuscripts of Giambatista Beccaria,” p. 413.

1He enclosed a nine-page bibliography in the hope, probably, that BF would have it published.

2Members of the religious order of the Scuole Pie were called the “Scolopi” and specialized in mechanical engineering.

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