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News Article about the "Philadelphia Experiments" - 1750

This image depicts an article from the widely circulated Gentlemen’s Magazine, published in London.  The story, included in the magazine’s January 1750 issue, is the first-known mention of experiments with lightning rods (and of the positive and negative character of electrical charges).

Historians believe that Benjamin Franklin wrote this article.  Its title is:

By a Number of Experiments, lately made in Philadelphia, several of the Principle Properties of the Electrical Fire were demonstrated, and its effect shewn.

At the time this story was published, the letter “s” was often written differently than it is today (making it difficult for today’s readers).  Here is the content of this article excerpt:

1.  That it [electricity] is a real Element, intimately united with all other matter, from whence it is collected by the tube, or sphere, and not created by the friction.

2.  That tho' it will fire inflammable bodies, itself has no sensible heat.

3.  That it doth not, like common matter, take up any perceptible time in passing thro' great portions of space.

4.  That bodies replete with this fire strongly attract such as have less of it, and repel such as have an equal quantity.

5.  That it will live in water, a river not being sufficient to quench the smallest spark of it.

6.  That, contrary to other matter, it is more strongly attracted by slender sharp points, then by solid blunt bodies, ETC.

Also among other curious particulars were shewn,

1.  A representation of the sensitive plant.

2.  A small globe to revolve round a larger, as the earth does round the sun.

Click on the image for a slightly larger view.


Media Credits

Text image online, courtesy Library of Congress.

 

PD

 

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