The Complete Works in Philosophy Volume II, Benjamin Franklin
The Complete Works in Philosophy Volume II
Benjamin Franklin
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Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath active as a writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher. Among the leading intellectuals of his time, Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the first United States Postmaster General. The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals is a Three Volume collection, published in 1806. The works of Dr. Franklin have been often partially collected, never before brought together in one uniform publication.

The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals

by
Benjamin Franklin

Vol. II


Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects

Physical and Meteorological Observations, Conjectures and Suppositions

Read at the Royal Society, June 3, 1756.

The particles of air are kept at a distance from each other by their mutual repulsion.

Every three particles, mutually and equally repelling each other, must form an equilateral triangle.

All the particles of air gravitate towards the earth, which gravitation compresses them, and shortens the sides of the triangles, otherwise their mutual repellency would force them to greater distances from each other.

Whatever particles of other matter (not endued with that repellency) are supported in air, must adhere to the particles of air, and be supported by them; for in the vacancies there is nothing they can rest on.

Air and water mutually attract each other. Hence water will dissolve in air, as salt in water.

The specific gravity of matter is not altered by dividing the matter, though the superficies be increased. Sixteen leaden bullets, of an ounce each, weigh as much in water as one of a pound, whose superficies is less.

Therefore the supporting of salt in water is not owing to its superficies being increased.

A lump of salt, though laid at rest at the bottom of a vessel of water, will dissolve therein, and its parts move every way, till equally diffused in the water; therefore there is a mutual attraction between water and salt. Every particle of water assumes as many of salt as can adhere to it; when more is added, it precipitates, and will not remain suspended.

Water, in the same manner, will dissolve in air, every particle of air assuming one or more particles of water. When too much is added, it precipitates in rain.

But there not being the same contiguity between the particles of air as of water, the solution of water in air is not carried on without a motion of the air, so as to cause a fresh accession of dry particles.

Part of a fluid, having more of what it dissolves, will communicate to other parts that have less. Thus very salt water, coming in contact with fresh, communicates its saltness till all is equal, and the sooner if there is a little motion of the water.

Even earth will dissolve, or mix with air. A stroke of a horse’s hoof on the ground, in a hot dusty road, will raise a cloud of dust, that shall, if there be a light breeze, expand every way, till, perhaps, near as big as a common house. It is not by mechanical motion communicated to the particles of dust by the hoof, that they fly so far, nor by the wind, that they spread so wide: but the air near the ground, more heated by the hot dust struck into it, is rarefied and rises, and in rising mixes with the cooler air, and communicates of its dust to it, and it is at length so diffused as to become invisible. Quantities of dust are thus carried up in dry seasons: showers wash it from the air, and bring it down again. For water attracting it stronger, it quits the air, and adheres to the water.

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