Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Edward Nairne, 14 August 1783

From Edward Nairne

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London Augt. 14th. 1783

Dear Sir

Mr Sikes of Paris has been so obliging as to undertake the care of delivering a Book to you. It is directions for using my Patent Electrical Machine which I hope before this you have received safe.6 There are some experiments in the Philosophical part, which I hope will give you pleasure, as they tend to confirm your Theory of Electricity. If it were necessary to add any thing more to your account of the similitude of Lightning & Electricity, I think the experiment which I have published in the Phil. Trans. Vol: 70 for the year 1780 of the Effect of Electricity in shortning of wire,7 & likewise the same effect, which I have since observed produced by Lightning, which will be published in the next Phil: Trans:8 is another confirmation.

I have lately met with a circumstance of the effects of Lightning, which I never heard of before. My Authority is part of a letter from the Duke of Marlborough to Professor Hornsby of Oxford9 who is now at Ramsgate for his Health, where he read it to me. A Gentleman told the Duke that in the Storm of Lightening which happened lately in Oxfordshire he had several of his Sheep killed under a Tree, I think it was thirteen, & that when they come to examine them, they found that every one of them had the Balls of their eyes forced out.

I know your time is much taken up, otherwise I should esteem it greatly if you would favor with a line Your much obliged Hble Servt.

Edwd: Nairne

Addressed: Pour Son Excellence / Monsr. Le Docteur Franklin / a Passy / pres / Paris.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Nairne had recently published The Description and Use of Nairne’s Patent Electrical Machine: with the Addition of Some Philosophical Experiments and Medical Observations (London, 1783). A MS version of the description accompanied the machine, which was sent by Benjamin Vaughan in June; see the annotation of Dessin to BF, June 15. Nairne had probably engaged Sykes, the English optician and dealer of scientific instruments in Paris (XXVIII, 430–1n), to market the new electrical machine in France.

7Edward Nairne, “An Account of the Effect of Electricity in Shortening Wires,” Phil. Trans., LXX (1780), 334–7.

8Edward Nairne, “A Letter from Mr. Edward Nairne, F.R.S. to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. P.R.S. Containing an Account of Wire Being Shortened by Lightning,” Phil. Trans., LXXIII (1783), 223–5. It was read to the Royal Society on Feb. 3.

9The duke, who had long been interested in electricity, had invited BF to witness experiments in 1765: XII, 96. Thomas Hornsby (XVI, 196n), who had held a professorship in astronomy since 1763, was by this time also a professor of natural philosophy and the Radcliffe Librarian. ODNB.

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