John Wesley.

A survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) online

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sharp pointed wire, rising a foot above it ; tie a silk rib-
bon to the end of the twine next the hand : and where
the silk and twine join, fasten a key. Raise this kite
when a thunder-storm is coming on. But he that
holds the string, must stand in a porch, or under some
other covering that the ribbon may not be wet. He
must likewise take particular care, that the twine do
not touch the top or side of the porch. As soon as the
thunder-cloud comes over the kite, Hie pointed wire
draws the electric fire from it. The kite, and all the
twine are then electrified, as plainly appears by this, that
the loose filaments of the twine stand out every way,
and are attracted by an approaching finger. And when



190-

flic kite and twine being wet, conduct the fire freely* it
will stream from the key, on the approach of the
kuuckJe. By this key ths phial may be charged,
am] all other experiments nuK-e, as by the globe.
And this is a demonstration, that- the 'electric lire
thereby obtained, is the very same with thut of light-
ning.

Another proof of this we have, in the remarkable
fa^e of the Rev. Mr. Winder, Rector of llalslead, in
Essex : who at the age of fifty-four was a stranger to
disease; nay, a. most unacquainted vuth pain of 'any
kind. But on June ?,, 1/(>1, he began to falter in his
speech. He did not regard it, till on July 1, he suddenly
tell from his chair, b\ a stroke of the nalsy. Whe'n a
little reccwered, lie was almost wholly deprived, of
speech, and in a great measure of ii is senses. But by
proper medicines he was in a few weeks so far restored,
as to walk a little by the help of a cane. In other re-
spects he was as before, till in June 176'2, he was re-
moved to Tunbridge. After drinking the waters six
weeks, he was much relieved ; but an universal weakness
still remained. He had also violent palpitations of the
heart, trembling of tHe limbs, snbsultutendinuili; with
frequent vertigos. Worse than all was, a constant pain
fixed deep in his breast, with an extreme dejection of
spirit. Thus he continued till the 24th of August :
when about ten at night, while he was asleep in bed, it
began to thunder and listen violently. Tu'e noise
ttenly awakened, him. At the i:tstr, a quick

Strom* shock, ailectiiig him t>ii ON 'ctric

shock. At the same time the chamber v. :
lightuing, which left behind it -voirs-

smell , Immediately he felt as if > ruction in

his chest was suddenly lemovod: and liis breast reco-
vered its full liberty and expansion, the oppression behi
enlir* 1 */ gone. When lie arose in the nlorning, he was
in perfect health : his head was quiu
easy, and lie could move all his limbs with as much
steadiness and agility as ever, Every paralytic symptom



191 t ,

w as, gone. He could have wa'ked ten or twelve miles
with ease. And from that. very hour he lias continued
in a state of perfect health.

What a clear proof' this, that the fire of lightning has
the same .nature and force with the electric !

The cymnotus, of South America, appears to possess
electrical powers greatly superior to those of the Euro-
pean torpedo. Some of them have been seen in the
Surinam river upwards of twenty feet. Ion?, whose
stroke was instantly fatal. That, on which the fol-
lowing experiment was made, was three feet seven
inches long, and was brought from Guinea to Phila-
delphia.

On patting a small fis.li into the vessel in which it
swam, it was suddenly stunned, and killed by it. The
effect: was evidently produced by a concussion, which
was felt, by one whose fingers were dipped in the water,
at ihe very moment the fish was shocked by if. Eight
nr ten persons, forming a circle, were all shocked by it,
when the first, in the series touched the eel, and the last
put his hand iwto the \\ater. The commotion given by
it, was conveyed through the same metallic, or other,
conductors, as convey the electric fluid ; and was inter-
cepted by the common non-conductors of that fluid.
'Whatever therefore be thought of the torpedo, it is
plain this eel is an electric machine, and has the power
of .suspending or giving the electric shock, just at. its
own pleasure.

Electricity has something in it common, both with
light, and with iTut^aetism. In common with M a r -
iietisni it counteracts, and in light substances ovenx-iiies
the force of gravity. Like that, it exerts its force in
vacua, as powerfully as- in the open air. And this force
extends to a considerable distance, through various sub-
stances of different textures and densities.

In common with light, electricity pervades glass ; but
it suffers no refraction. Its direction is still in right

3



192

lines and that through glasses of different forms,
included one within the other, and large spaces between
them.

Indeed the electric attraction through glass, is much
more powerful, when the glass is made warm : because
warm glass does not condense the water from the air,
which makes the glass a conductor of electricity : and
also because as heat enlarges the dimensions of all
known bodies, and consequently makes their constituent
parts recede from each other, the electric effluvia finds a
more easy passage through the pores.

And electricity in common with light., when its forces
are collected, produces fire and flame.

That the electric matter is far more subtle than air,
appears, from its passing through those bodies which air
cannot penetrate ; glass in particular. And that it is
elastic, appears from its increasing the motion of fluids,
and from its extending itself to a considerable distance
round excited bodies.

Do not all these experiments shew, that the electric
matter is pure elementary fire, an original distinct prin-
ciple, formed by the Creator himself; and not as
some have apprehended, mechanically reducible from
other bodies I

And may it not be doubted whether this be not the
only elastic body in the universe ? Whether it be not
the original spring, which commHnicates elasticity to
all other elastic bodies ? To the air in particular :
which is elastic no longer, when detached from elec-
tric fire, fcut commences Jlxed and unelastic ; and seem.s
to recover its elasticity, only by recovering that ethereal
fire which had been violently separated from it.

Scarce any phenomenon in nature has been esteemed
more difficult to be accounted for, than those luminous
appearances in the sky, termed Aurora Boreulis, or nor-
thern lights. But these also may be rationally explained
upon the principles of electricity. We often see clouds
at different heights, passing different ways, north and
south at the same time. This manifestly proves different



193

^currents of air, one of them uuder the other. Now
as the air between the tropics is rarefied by the SUB, it
rises : the denser air is pressed into its place. The air
so raised, moves north and south, and if it has no op-
portunity before, must descend in the polar regions.
When this air with its vapours descends into contact
with the vapours arising there, the electric fire which it
brought begins to be communicated, and is seen in clear
nights; being first visible where it is first in motion,
namely in the most northern parts. But from thence
the streams of light seem to shoot southerly, even to the
zenith of northern countries.

To the same principle we may refer what some term
St. Helmo's fire, and the ancient's, Castor and Pollux, a
thin shining light, which is sometimes seen dancing on
the decks, or raging of ships. A very remarkable ac-
count of this, is given by a late author. " In the night
it became exceeding dark, and thundered and lightened
dreadfully. We saw mean time on different parts of
the ship, above thirty St. Helmo's fires. One which was
on the top of the vane of the main mast, was more than
a foot and a half in length. I ordered one of the sail-
ors to take down the vane : the noise of the fire resem-
bled that of fired wet gunpowder. Scarce had he low-
ered the vane, but the fire left it, and fixed on the top
of the main mast : after remaining there a considerable
time, it went out by little and little.

" How immense a quantity of electric matter must have
been at that time in the atmosphere surrounding the ship,
to furnish more than thirty St. Helmo's fires, (the same
\ve see at the end of our conductors in electrifying) one of
which was above a foot and a half long 1 The masts,
yards, and every part of the ship were then real con-
ductors of the electric fire between the atmosphere
and the sea, and by that means preserved the ship."

A person electrified acquires a flammific power, strong
-enough to light with one of his fingers, or with his cane,
warm brandy. When the finger draws near, a cracking
sparkle issues out, and, sets it on fire.



194

The electric sparks of iron are of a silver white, those
of brass, green, and those drawn from an egg, yel-
lov.ish. This seems to prove, that the electric matter
issuing from a body, is saturated wi*h some parts pecu-
liar to it.

Electricity quickens almost all sorts of motion, that
of water iu particular, which then glitters in the dart,
the hie appearing iienningled with the water. It acce-
lerates the motion of the human blood, quickening the
pulse. o fifteui or sixteen strokes in a minute. The
blcod that fi<,v;s from the vein of one electrified, glis-
sepai ... into smail drops, and spouts out consider-
abay farther thin, otherwise it would do.

li exceedingly hastens the vegetation of plants. Myr-
tle trees, which were electrified, budded much sooner
than others of the same kind and bigness, in the same
green-house. And seeds elrctriiied daily, have shot up
and grown more in. three or four days, than others of
the same kind, ai,d alike in ail other circumstances, have-
done in eleven or twelve.

It cures abundance of diseases, even the most stub-
born; particularly those of the nervous kind ; many of
them in a moment, by a single touch; most, in a l\v
days. So that this is not only one of the greatest curi-
osities in .the world, but one of the noblest medicines
that God ever gave to man.

Another phenomenon, \slach could never before l>e
aecouriteU for, is undoubtedly owing to this cause, die
spaiU-ng observed on^mjw flannel, when it is rubbed in
the dark. Very probably the acid steams of sulphur,
which is burnt under tbe flannel when it is bleached,
unite \\jith ihe oil wherewithal.- always abounds, and so
form an animal sulphur, which upor any strong agitation
of these hairs, wiii become luminous. This sparkiingis
most observable in frosty weather, as electricity is always
strongest %at that tune. Flannel loses this property when
it is Wiithe<i, the li\ivial salts of the i>oap, destroying the
sulphureous acid, .and likewise discharging its native



195

"Jlie wearing flannel, even without its being
washed, will have' the same effect: as Hie etfluvi^ whi -h
.go off in perspiration, dissolve the sulpimr, and weaken
tiie spring of the air.

A gentleman has lately made some curfons exp-: c-
titt'its on the eleclricity of hair. A lady had told niri?,
that on combing her hair in frosty weather, in (he dark,
she had sometimes observed sparks of fire to issue from
it. This made him think of attempting to collect the
electrical iire from hair alone, without the assistance of
any other electrical apparatus To this end, he desired
a young lady to stand on a case of bees wax, and to
corah her sisters hair, who was sitting on a chair before
livr. Soon a tier she began to comb, the young lady on
4he wax was greatly astonished to ivid her whole body
electrified, darting out sparks of iire against every ob-
ject that approached her. The hair was extremely elec-
trified and a fleeted an electremeter at a very great dis-
tance. He charged a metal conductor from it with
great ease; and in the space of a few minutes col-
letted as much fire from tier hair as to kindle common
spirits ; and by means of a small phial, gave many smaifc
shocks to all the company.

Electricity will probably soon be considered as the
..great vivyfying principle of nature, by which she carries
on most of her operations. It is a fifth element, dis-
tinct from, and of a superior nature to the other four,
which only compose the corporeal parts of matter: but
this subtle and active fluid is a kind of soul that per-
\'4ules and quickens every particle of it. When an equal
quantity of this is diffused through the air, and over the
tace of the earth, every thing continues calm and quiet ;
but if by any accident one part of matter has acquired
a greater quantity than another, the most dreadful conse-
quences often ensue before the equilibrium can be re-
stored. Nature seems to fall into convulsions, and
of her works are destroyed ; all the great pheuo-
V0L III* K



196

mena are produced ; thunderiftg, lightning, earthquake,
and whirlwinds ; f for there is now little doubt, ti.a'r all
these frequently depend on this sole cause. And again,
if we look down from the sublime of nature to its mi-
Dtitiae, \ve shall stiil find the same -power acting though
perhaps in less legible chaiacters; ti;r as the knowledge
of its operations, is still in its infancy, they are generally
misunderstood, or ascribed to some oilier cause. But
doubtless in process of* time these will be properly in-
vestigated 5 when men will wonder, hew much they
have been in the dark. It will then possibly be found,
that what we call sensibility of nerve*, and many of
those diseases known only by name, are owing to the
body's being possessed of too large, or too small a
quantity of this subtle and -active fl iid ; tluit very
fluid perhaps, that is the vehicle of all our feelings;
and which has been so long searched for in-vain in tlie
nerves.

We all know that in damp and hazy weather, when it
seems to be blunted, and absorbed by the humidity ;
when its activity is lost, and little or none of it .can J>e
collected, cur spirits are more languid, and our sensibi-
lity less acute. And in the wind at Naples, when the
air seems totally deprived of it, the whole system is un-
strung, and the nerves seem to loose both their tension
and elasticity, ti ! ! the north or west wind awakens the
activity of this animating pov^er ; that soon restores the
tone, and enlivens ail nature, which seemed to droop and
languish during its absence.

It is likewise well known, that there have been in-
stances of the human bndy becoming electric without
the mediation of any electric substance, -'ml even emit-
ting sparks of rue with a disagreeable sensation, and an
extreme degree of nervous sensibility.

About eight or nine years ago, a lady of Switzerland
was sftected in l^s manner. She v as uncommonly sen-
sible of every change of weather, z d h*r.l her electri-
cal feeling strongest in a clear day, or during the pas-

4



197

sage of thunder clouds, when the air is known to be re-
plete with that fluid. Her case was decided to be a ner-
vous one.

Two gentlemen of Geneva had a short experience of
the same complaint, though in a mucli superior degree.
Professor Saussure, and young Mr. Jalaberr, when tra<-
velling 'over one of the high Alps, were caught amongst
thunder clouds: and to their utter astonishment, funui
their bodies so full of electrical fire, that spontaneous
flashes darted from their fingers with a crackling noise,
and the same kind of sensation, as when strongly elec-
trified by art.

It seems pretty evident, that these feelings were owing
to the bodies being possessed of too great a share of
electric fire. This is an uncommon case ; but it is not
at all improbable, that many of our invalids,- particularly
the hypochondriac, owe their disagreeable feelings to
the opposite cause, or the bodies being possessed of too
small a quantity of this fire $ for we find that a diminu-
tion of it in the air seldom fails to increase their uneasy
sensations, and vice versa.

Perhaps it might be of service to these people to
wear some electric substance next their skin, to defend
the nerves and fibres from the damp, or new electric air.
I would propose a waistcoat of the finest flannel, which
should be kept perfectly clean and dry; for the effluvia
of the body in case of any violent perspiration, will soon
destroy its electric quality ; this should be covered by
another of the same size of silk. The animal heat,
and the friction that exercise must occasion l>etuixt these
two substances, produce a powerful electricity ; and
would form a kind of electric atmosphere round the
body, thai might possibly be one of the best preserva-
tives, against the effect of damps.

As for our Swiss lady, I have little doubt that her
complaints were owing in great part to her dress : and
that a very small alteration almost ia any part of it a
would effectuall have cured her.



198

-A lady who has her head surrounded vith wires, -
fcer hair stuck full of metal pins, and who at the same
time stands upon dry silk, is to all intents ami purpose
'&n electrical conductor, iusolated, and prepared for col-
lecting the fire Irom the atmosphere ; 'and it is not at
all surprising that during thunder frtorms, or when tins
air is extremely replete \\iih <-!e< trical matter, she 'should
emit sparks, and exhibit oilier appearances of electri-
city. I imagine a vtry trying change of dress, which
from the constant versatility of their modes, may some
day take place, would render this iad\'s disease alto-
gether epidemical among the sex. -Only let the soles of
their shoes -he made of an electric substance, >and let the
wires of their -caps, ana pia*. of their hair, be M.mewhat
lengthened and pom ed outv\ards ; %. d I think there is
little doubt, that they will often find themsehes in an
electrified state: but indeed, if they only wear silk, or
even worsted stockings, it may some times prove suffici-
ent ; for electrometers have been often insolatcd as per-
fectly by placing them o;i a piece ot dry silk, r flannel,
as on glass.

How little do our ladies 'imagine, wlirn t >ev rurround
their heads with wire, the most powerful <-f all conduc-
tors; and at the same time, wear stoci-ii-g>, shoes, and
gowns of silk, one of the most powerful repetlanis, that
they prepare their bodies in the same manner, ' nd ac-
cording to the same principles as electrici i.s re are
their conductors for attracting th'e tire of L. ht-
ning ! If they cannot be brought to rei r. uis i t eir
wire caps, and their pins, might they LO< fa.! i<i^ on
. some s,;ch preservatives as thobevvl i-h o: lat y ars
have been applied. to objects of less coiibidcration or coa*.
sequence ? -

11. Next in subtilty to this ethereal fluid the ether of
plants appeirs to be. It seems to be di-sttute of all
gross air. For exhaust tins ever so ;K urately, i\ re-
in-'i'^ unmoved, and does not emit any air bubbles,
wl; h immediately arise in other liquor. A little of it
poured on the hand, gives a sense ot cold, equal to that



109

by the contact of -snow. Blow upon it once or
twice, aod your hand is dry. It causes a hissing when
poured upon wunu water, as if a piece of liot iron were
thrown into it. Put a lump of sut;ar which Iras' imbibed :
a little of it, into a vessel full of hot water, the sugar
sinks ; but the rtl'rr ru'sbiogfc forth, e\cites a -strong ebul-
lition. If a spoonful 01 iV be pouted Uito a copper pot
full of boiling VA<I er; hold a candle near, and instantly
there- isrir.vs a - g^eat Bash of lightning. Hence it ap-
pears, that this ether, is both a very fluid water,, and a-' 4
moit subtil fire; so that if kindled in a thousand'
times the quantity of cold water, it burns- inextinguish-
ably

It does not manifest the least oiliness to the touch J
yet is it the true, natural diaaoivenl of all fat oils and
gums whatever.

it has a wonderful harmony with gold, even greater
than that vviiich i between gold and aqua regia. Dis-
solve a piece of gold in aqua regia: on the solution cold
pour halt an ounce or etner. Shake the sjass, and all
the gold wiil p.iss into this, and the aqua regia robbed
of all its gold, will deposit a white power, which soon
turning green, is the copper wherewith the gold vas
adulujtated. Ether then is the most noble and efficaci-
ous instrument in chymistry, and pharmacy, inasmuch as
essence-, and essential oils are extracted oy it immediate-
ly, with >ut the mediation of fire, tVom- woods, 1 barks,
root>, aerbs, flowers, seeds^ and the various parts ofani-
m*\->.

For instance, take mint, sage, cinnamon, or all toge-
ther, cut- iul boitie them; pour on them a spoonful or
two of ether,. and a/ ep it }*> stood an hour in a cool
place, .. fili up the bottle with cold waier, and presently
you will see the essenti.il oil swimming up^u the water.
L: like manner, though not so imii ediaiely, it extracts
the purest .iruld irorn any. of the baser numerals. And
the guid L.ur; extracted, :s better ami sooner purified by
this one op^raii uu, than by fusion wilii antimony. It is
the lightest oi ait liq-.iOrs. Seven ounces of this n-1 a
j>hmi, v* hicii coatu-iiij iv^tuty even of oil of vitriol.. And

K 3



200

it is the purest Same, leaving neither soot nor ashes after
its t;ifl<urrtttion.

1 . Wind is a current of air. Wherever the air is
rareiiert or condensed beyond its natural degree, a wind
must necessarily ti/sue, till the equilibrium be restored :
the condensed .tir immediately expanding itself toward
that which v.as rarefied. The causes of this condensa-
tion or ruitiYactioii, are heat, cold, and a thousand things
beside.

The heat in the West-India islands would be intoler-
able, if the winds rising as the sun gathers strength, did
not blow from the sea, so as to temper the heal even of
the iH>on-day sun. On the other hand, as the night
advances, a breeze arises from the land, and blows as
from its centre towards the sea, to all points of the
compass at once.

At Aleppo the coldest winds in the winter are those
\vbich blow from N. W. to E. the nearer I he east I he
cukier. But from May 1, to the end of Septen her, the
winds bio-wing from the same points, bring with them a
heat which one would imagine came out of aa oven, and
v hich, when it blows hard, will affect metals within the
houses, as if they had been exposed to the rays of the
sun. Yet it is remarkable, that water kept in jars is
much cooler 'at this time, than when a cool \\ esterl y
wind blows.

But what degree of heat can a human body bear ? A
gentleman desirous to ascertain this, heated several
rooms by means of flues, from 100 degre^ f i Fahren-
heit's thermometer to 210. He found he could bear the
heat of 210 without suffering much, and could breathe
freely, when his pulse beat 165 beats in a minute. Even
then placing the ball of the thermometer under his
tongue, the glass sunk to 100, and the flesh of his body
felt as cold as a corpse. Yet his watch chain was so
hot, he could scarce touch it.

Mince be inferred that a human body has, to a cer~



201

tain degree, a power of destroying heat, as well as a
power of generating heat, as t i> instances may re-
quire. This resiitis from the principle of life itself,,
and accordingly, is not found in an}; inanimate body.

A wind of <* very peculiar kind, parsed over the city
of Rome, on the night of the IJth of June, 1?49.
There first appeared a very black, long, and lofty cloud,
which emitter flames on all sides. It moved along with
a surprising swiftness, within three or four feet of the
ground. It first ga nered in the neighbouring sea,
came from Oaiia to Home, entered tbe city between the
gates of St. Paul, and St. Sebestian, and crossing in a
strait line, went out at the north angle of a large square,
between the Porta Pia, and that of St Lawrence. It
stripped off the roofs of houses, blew down the
chirnnies, broke doors and windows, forced up the floors,
and unpaved the rooms. It tore up the vines, and over-
threw the tr es in its way, and where its action was most
violent, the very rafters of the houses were broke, yea,
and hurled against houses at a considerable distance.
The loftiest buddings felt' its fury the most: those of
one story were little damaged. It was traced to some
distance without the city, then it died away.

The motions, of all these hurricanes is circular, and-
they carry up ir.to the air, tiles, stones, ;nid whatever
comes in uieir way, and throw them violently to a con-
sukabie distance. To this may be owing some of
those surprising showers which are recorded in history. -
A whirlwind, for instance, passes over a place where


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Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 17 of 24)