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than at the plane sides, and so from the angles of a body of any other form, and still most easily from the angle that is most acute. Thus if a body shaped as A, B, C, D, E, in Fig. 2, Plate 2, be electrified, or have an electrical atmosphere communicated to it, and we consider every side as a base on which the particles rest, and by which they are attracted, one may see, by imagining a line from A to F, and another from E to G, that the portion of the atmosphere included in F, A, E, G, has the line A, E, for its basis. So the portion of atmosphere included in 1, A, B, I, has the line A, B, for its basis. And likewise the portion included, in K, B, C, L, has b, c, to rest on; and so on the other side of the figure. Now if you would draw off this atmosphere with any blunt smooth body, and approach the middle of the side A, B, you must come very near, before the force of your attractor exceeds the force or power with which that side holds its atmosphere. But there is a small portion between 1, B, K, that has less of the surface to rest on, and to be attracted by, than the neighbouring portions, while at the same time there is a mutual repulsion between its particles, and the particles of those portions, therefore here you can get it with more ease, or at a greater distance. Between F, A, H, there is a larger portion that has yet a less surface to rest on, and to attract it; here therefore you can get it away still more easily. But easiest of all between L, C, M, where the quantity is largest, and the surface to attract and keep it back the least. When you have drawn away one of these angular portions of the fluid, another succeeds in its place, from the nature of fluidity, and the mutual repulsion before mentioned ; and so the atmosphere continues flowing off at such angle, like a stream, till no more is remaining. The extremities of the portions of atmosphere over these angular parts, are likewise at a greater distance from the electrified body, as may be seen by the inspection of the above figure; the point of the atmosphere of the angle c, being much farther from c, than any other part of the atmosphere over the lines c, B, or B, A : and, besides the distance arising from the nature of the figure, where the attraction is less, the particles will naturally expand to a greater distance by their mutual repulsion. On these accounts we suppose electrified bodies discharge their atmosphere upon unelectrified bodies more easily, and at a greater distance from their angles and points than from their smooth sides. Those points will also discharge into the air when the body has too great an electrical atmosphere, without bringing any non-electric near to receive what is thrown off : for the air, though an electric per se, yet has always more or less water and other non-electric matters mixed with it : and these attract and receive what is so discharged.
17. But points have a property by which they draw on as well as throw off the electrical fluid at greater distances than blunt bodies can. That is, as the pointed part of an electrified body will discharge the atmosphere of that body, or communicate it farthest to another body, so the point of an unelectrified body will draw
off the electrical atmosphere from an electrified body, farther than a blunter part off the same unelectrified body will do. Thus a pin held by the head, and the point presented to an electrified body, will draw off its atmosphere at a foot distance ; where, if the head were presented instead of the point, no such effect would follow. To understand this, we may consider that if a person standing on the floor would draw off the electrical atmosphere from an electrified body, an iron crow and a blunt knitting-needle held alternately in his hand, and presented for that purpose, do not draw with different forces in proportion to their different masses. For the man, and what he holds in his hand, be it large or small, are connected with the common mass of unelectrified matter; and the force with which he draws is the same in both cases, it consisting in the different proportion of electricity in the electrified body and that common mass. But the force with which the electrified body retains its atmosphere by attracting it, is proportioned to the surface over which the particles are placed ; i.e., four square inches of that surface retain their atmosphere with four times the force that one square inch retains its atmosphere. And as in plucking the hairs from the horse's tail, a degree of strength not sufficient to pull away a handful at once, could yet easily strip it hair by hair ; so a blunt body presented cannot draw off a number of particles at once, but a pointed one, with no greater force, takes them away easily, particle by particle.
18. These explanations of the power and operation of points when they first occurred to me, and while they first floated in my mind, appeared perfectly satisfactory ; but now I have written them, and considered them more closely, I must own I have some doubts about them; yet, as I have at present nothing better to offer in their stead, I do not cross them out: for even a bad solution read, and its faults discovered, has often given rise to a good one, in the mind of an ingenious reader.
19. Nor is it of much importance to us to know the manner in which nature executes her laws; it is enough if we know the laws themselves. It is of real use to know that china left in the air unsupported will fall and break; but how it comes to fall, and why it breaks, are matters of speculation. It is a pleasure indeed to know them, but we can preserve our china without it.
20. Thus in the present case, to know this power of points may possibly be of some use to mankind, though we should never be able to explain it. The following experiments, as well as those in my first paper, show this power. I have a large prime conductor, made of several thin sheets of clothier's pasteboard, formed into a tube, near ten feet long and a foot diameter. It is covered with Dutch embossed paper, almost totally gilt. This large metallic surface supports a much greater electrical atmosphere than a rod of iron of fifty times the weight would do. It is suspended by silk lines, and when charged will strike at near two inches distance a pretty hard stroke, so as to make one's knuckle ache. Let a person standing on the floor present the point of a needle at twelve or more inches distance from it, and while the needle is so presented, the conductor cannot be charged, the point drawing off the fire as fast as it is thrown on by the electrical globe. Let it be charged, and then present the point at the same distance, and it will suddenly be discharged. In the dark you may see the light on the point when the experiment is made ; and if the person holding the point stands upon wax, he will be electrified by receiving the fire at that distance. Attempt to draw off the electricity with a blunt body, as a bolt of iron round at the end and smooth (a silversmith’s iron punch, inch thick, is what I use), and you must bring it within the distance of three inches before you can do it, and then it is done with a stroke and crack. As the pasteboard tube hangs loose on silk lines, when you approach it with the punch iron, it likewise will move towards the punch, being attracted while it is charged ; but if, at the same instant, a point be presented as before, it retires again, for the point discharges it. Take a pair of large brass scales, of two or more feet beam, the cords of the scales being silk. Suspend the beam by a pack-thread from the ceiling, so that the bottom of the scales may be about a foot from the floor : the scales will move round in a circle by the untwisting of the pack-thread. Set the iron punch on the end upon the floor, in such a place as that the scales may pass over it in making their circle: then electrify one scale, by applying the wire of a charged vial to it. As they move round, you see that scale draw nigher to the floor, and dip more when it comes over the punch ; and if that be placed at a proper distance, the scale will snap and discharge its fire into it. But if a needle be stuck on the end of the punch, its point upwards, the scale, instead of drawing nigh to the punch, and snapping, discharges its fire silently through the point, and rises higher from the punch. Nay, even if the needle be placed upon the floor near the punch, its point upwards, the end of the punch, though so much higher than the needle, will not attract the scale and receive its fire, for the needle will get it and convey it away, before it comes nigh enough for the punch to act. And this is constantly observable in these experiments, that the greater quantity of electricity on the pasteboard tube, the farther it strikes or discharges its fire, and the point likewise will draw it off at a still greater distance.
Now if the fire of electricity and that of lightning be the same, as I have endeavoured to show at large in a former paper, this pasteboard tube and these scales may respresent electrified clouds. If a tube of only ten feet long will strike and discharge its fire on the punch at two or three inches distance, an electrified cloud of perhaps 10,000 acres may strike and discharge on the earth at a proportionally greater distance. The horizontal motion of the scales over the floor, may represent the motion of the clouds over the earth; and the erect iron punch, a hill or high building; and then
we see how electrified clouds passing over hills or high buildings at too great a height to strike, and may be attracted lower till within their striking distance. And lastly, if a needle fixed on the punch with its point upright, or even on the floor below the punch, will draw the fire from the scale silently at a much greater than the striking distance, and so prevent its descending towards the punch; or if in its course it would have come nigh enough to strike, yet being first deprived of its fire it cannot, and the punch is thereby secured from the stroke. I say, if these things are so, may not the knowledge of this power of points be of use to mankind, in preserving houses, churches, ships, &c., from the stroke of lightning, by directing us to fix on the highest parts of those edifices, upright rods of iron made sharp as a needle, and gilt to prevent rusting, and from the foot of those rods a wire down the outside of the building into the ground, or down round one of the shrouds of a ship, and down her side till it reaches the water ? Would not these pointed rods probably draw the electrical fire silently out of a cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure us from that most sudden and terrible mischief.
21. To deterınine the question whether the clouds that contain lightning are electrified or not, I would propose an experiment to be tried where it may be done conveniently. On the top of some high tower or steeple, place a kind of sentry-box, big enough to contain a man and an electrical stand. From the middle of the stand let an iron rod rise and pass bending out of the door, and then upright twenty or thirty feet, pointed very sharp at the end. If the electrical stand be kept clean and dry, a man standing on it when such clouds are passing low might be electrified and afford sparks, the rod drawing fire to him from a cloud. If any danger to the man should be apprehended (though I think there would be none) let him stand on the floor of his box, and now and then bring near to the rod the loop of a wire that has one end fastened to the leads, he holding it by a wax handle ; so the sparks, if the rod is electrified, will strike from the rod to the wire, and not affect him. See Fig. 3, plate II.
22. Before I leave this subject of lightning, I may mention some other similarities between the effects of that, and those of electricity. Lightning has often been known to strike people blind. A pigeon that we struck dead to appearance by the electrical shock, recovering life, drooped about the yard several days, eat nothing, though crumbs were thrown to it, but declined and died. We did not think of its being deprived of sight; but afterwards a pullet struck dead in like manner, being recovered by repeatedly blowing into its lungs, when set down on the floor ran headlong against the wall. and on examination appeared perfectly blind. Hence we concluded that the pigeon also had been absolutely blinded by the shock. The biggest animal we have yet killed, or tried to kill with the electrical stroke, was a well-grown pullet. 23. Reading in the ingenious Dr. Miles's account of the thunder
storm at Stretham, the effect of the lightning in the stripping off all the paint that had covered a gilt moulding of a pannel of wainscot, without hurting the rest of the paint, I had a mind to lay a coat of paint over the filletting of gold on the cover of a book, and try the effect of a strong electrical flash sent through that gold from a charged sheet of glass. But having no paint at hand, I pasted a narrow strip of paper over it; and when dry, sent the flash through the gilding, by which the paper was torn off from end to end, with such force, that it was broke in several places, and in others brought away part of the grain of the Turkey-leather in which it was bound; and convinced me, that had it been painted, the paint would have been stript off in the same manner with that on the wainscot at Stretham.
24. Lightning melts metals, and I hinted in my paper on that subject, that I suspected it to be a cold fusion ; I do not mean a fusion by force of cold, but a fusion without heat. We have also melted gold, silver, and copper, in small quantities by the electrical flash. The manner is this: Take a gold leaf, leaf silver, or leaf gilt copper, commonly called leaf brass, or Dutch gold; cut off from the leaf long narrow strips, the breadth of a straw. Place one of these strips between two strips of smooth glass that are about the width of your finger. If one strip of gold, the length of the leaf, be not long enough for the glass, add another to the end of it, so that you may have a little part hanging out loose at each end of the glass. Bind the pieces of glass together from end to end with strong silk thread ; then place it so as to be part of an electrical circuit (the ends of gold hanging out being of use to join with the other parts of the circuit), and send the flash through it, from a large electrified jar or sheet of glass. Then if your strips of glass remain whole, you will see that the gold is missing in several places, and instead of it a metallic stain on both the glasses; the stains on the upper and under glass exactly similar in the minutest stroke, as may be seen by holding them to the light; the metal appeared to have been not only melted, but even vitrified, or otherwise so driven into the pores of the glass as to be protected by it from the action of the strongest aqua fortis or aqua regia. I send you enclosed two little pieces of glass with these metallic stains upon them, which cannot be removed without taking part of the glass with them. Sometimes the stain spreads a little wider than the breadth of the leaf, and looks brighter at the edge, as by inspecting closely you may observe in these. Sometimes the glass breaks to pieces; once the upper glass broke into a thousand pieces, looking like coarse salt. These pieces I send you were stained with Dutch gold. True gold makes a darker stain, somewhat reddish ; silver a greenish stain. We once took two pieces of thick looking-glass, as broad as a Gunter's scale, and six inches long; and placing leaf gold between them, put them between two smoothly--planed pieces of wood, and fixed them tight in a bookbinder's small press; yet though they were so closely confined, the force of the electrical shock