A Letter from Mr. Franklin to Mr. Peter Collinson, F. R. S. concerning the Effects of Lightning. Benjamin Franklin, Peter Collinson.
A Letter from Mr. Franklin to Mr. Peter Collinson, F. R. S. concerning the Effects of Lightning
Franklin concerning the effects of Lightning

A Letter from Mr. Franklin to Mr. Peter Collinson, F. R. S. concerning the Effects of Lightning

[London]: [ C. Davis ] [ 1753 ]. First Edition. 289-296 pages. 4to. 19 x 24 cm. (7 1/4 x 9 1/4 inches). A disbound extract from "Philosophical Transactions Giving some Account of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours, of the Ingenious in Many Considerable Parts of the World ... Vol. XLVII For the Years 1751 and 1752...London: Printed for C. Davis, MDCCLIII" The article, "A Letter from Mr. Franklin to Mr. Peter Collinson, F. R. S. concerning the Effects of Lightning" is found on pages 289-291. Browned at the edges, additional article following this piece incomplete. Very Good. Disbound. [23507]


"The most dramatic result of [Benjamin Franklin]'s researches was the proof that lightening is really an electrical phenomenon. Others had made such a suggestion before him - even Newton himself - but it was [Franklin] who provided the experimental proof. In 1752 he flew a kite in a thunderstorm and attached a key to its string. From this he collected electrical charges in a Leiden [leyden] jar and showed that atmospheric and frictional or machine-made electricity are the same. He went on to propose the fixing of iron rods at the top of buildings, masts of ships, etc., from which he conducted the electric charges they collected from lightening into the wet subsoil - the invention of the lightening conductor."

In the paper offered here, Benjamin Franklin writes to Collinson on June 20, 1751 interpreting Captain Waddel's account of the effects of lightning on his ship (Phil Trans. N. 492, p. 111). He conjectures that the effects might have been different if there was a different conductor from the mast to the sea. He also discusses the effects of lightning on loadstones (and compasses) and explains how to reverse the effects using leyden jars. Finally, he conveys to Collinson how European electricians might go about firing gunpowder by electric flame, something they had apparently not yet figured out.

Before the article offered here was published in the Philosophical Transactions, an assemblage of earlier letters between the two scientists was separately published as a pamphlet by E. Cave. The letter offered here was not included in that assemblage (perhaps Cave didn't yet have access to it). Cave compiled his work with material available and without Franklin's immediate consent. Still, Cave's 1851 publication (and subsequent additions) cemented "[Franklin's] reputation as a scientist ... [Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America. London: Printed and sold by E. Cave, 1751] remains the most important scientific book of eighteenth-century America." (Printing and the Mind of Men 2nd edition, #199) It went through several printings, all of which are highly desirable.

This item is a very interesting article as it highlights Franklin's then current thinking on electricity and shows how close he is to being able to conclude that lightning and static electricity captured in Leyden jars are in fact the same. It also anticipates Franklin's famous kite experiment which uses another method to get the lightning to the ground. This letter was read to the Royal Society of London November 14, 1751.

Price: $1,250.00

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