Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Joseph Banks, 7 November 1783

From Joseph Banks

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library

Soho Square Nov. 7. 1783

Dear Sir

Yesterday Evening I opend the Session of the Royal Society by reading to them your two Communications upon the subject of the Aerostatique Machines lately executed in France7 & I can Assure you without Flattery that an Evident pleasure was visible in the manner in which they receivd your return (as they Considerd it) to Philosophical amusements after having so long being detaind from them by business so inimical to Science.

Whether you would chuse to have these Essays printed in the Philosophical transactions is a Question to which I should be much obligd to you for an answer the reason against it is that during the Long Vacation of the Society the business is much more developd than it was when you Communicated the reason why they should be printed is that as far as they go they are distinctly & well written in short unless you intend to amuse your Leisure by giving some more general detail of what has been done on this subject I should have no doubt of the propriety of Printing them & will answer for the readyness of the Committee of Papers to give their approbation.

Beleive me there are many here who would rejoice to see you again in your old haunts to which I do not doubt you feel some inclination to return & none more than Your Faithfull Servant

Jos: Banks

We are told by the newspapers that a Ballon has been let fly from London8 I know nothing relative to the particulars but I think I see an inclination in the more respectable part of the R. S. to guard against the Ballomania which has prevaild in & not to patronize Ballons merely on account of their rising in the atmosphere till some experiment likely to prove beneficial either to Society or Science is proposd to be annext to them9

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7BF’s letters to Banks of Aug. 30[–Sept. 2] (XL, 543–52) and Oct. 8, above.

8Banks may be referring to the Nov. 4 release of a balloon, five feet in diameter, by the Italians Count Francesco Zambeccari and Michael Biaggini: J. E. Hodgson, The History of Aeronautics in Great Britain … (London, 1924), pp. 101–2.

9Among those arguing against any involvement of the Royal Society in balloon experiments was Charles Blagden. During Banks’s absence from London in the fall (he was at his Lincolnshire estate from mid-September to early November), Blagden frequently sent him scientific news, including regular updates on French balloons. Noting the heated arguments among French scientists, Blagden gloated that “during all the heat & enthusiasm of our neighbours we retained in this country a true philosophical tranquillity,” and he counseled against “the folly of simple imitation” until balloons could be used in “some capital experiment”: Neil Chambers, ed., Scientific Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks, 1765–1820 (6 vols., London, 2007), II, 133, 164–5, 174–5, 204.

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