Royal Society (Great Britain).

The Philosophical transactions of the Royal society of London, from their commencement in 1665, in the year 1800 (Volume 8) online

. (page 63 of 85)
Online LibraryRoyal Society (Great Britain)The Philosophical transactions of the Royal society of London, from their commencement in 1665, in the year 1800 (Volume 8) → online text (page 63 of 85)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Being then on the mount in Kensington gardens, at a quarter past lo o'clock,
the sun shining bright, in a serene sky, Lord B. saw towards the south, a ball
of fire, of about 8 inches diameter, and somewhat oval, which enlarged to the
size of about a yard and a half diameter. It seemed to descend from above,
and at the distance of about half a mile from the earth, took its course to the
east, and seemed to drop over Westminster. In its course it assumed a tail of
80 yards in length ; and before it disappeared, it divided into 1 heads. It left
a train of smoke all the way as it went ; and from the place where it seemed to
drop, there arose a smoke, which continued ascending for 20 minutes ; and at
length formed into a cloud, which assumed different colours.

Concerning the same Meteor, seen in Sussex. By John Fuller, Esq. F. R. S.

N°46l, p. 871.

Between 12 and 1 o'clock, all this part of the country was alarmed with a
most terrible clap of thunder, as it is generally imagined. The sound came
from the north, where the weather appeared very black and dark all the morn-
ing. The sound was double, as if 2 very large cannons had been discharged at
the distance of about a second from each other. Most people thought, just
at the first hearing, that it was the discharge of cannons, till by the rolling and
echoing of the sound afterwards, they were convinced it was not. Some thought


powder-mills had been blown up ; and they are no bad judges in such kind of
blasts, having been more than once alarmed with them, by the powder-mills in
the neighbourhood. A countryman, at work in the fields, about 7 miles north
of us, saw a flash of lightning before he heard the noise, but Mr. F. cannot
answer for the truth of it. It is very easy to imagine, that fancy and fear in
a poor countryman on such an uncommon occasion, might conjure up the idea
of lightning. If it was thunder and lightning, the effects of it must be very
terrible somewhere ; for it gave the same report, and shook all the houses just
in the same manner, that were about 20 miles distant from one another north
and south ; which is an argument that it was more general than thunder can
possibly be.

Concerning the same Meteor, seen in Kent. By the Rev. William Gostling.

On the 11th Dec. 1741, about one in the afternoon, Mr. G.'s house was
violently shaken for some seconds of time, as if several loaded carriages had
been driving against his walls ; and he heard a noise, which at first the family
took for thunder, but of an uncommon sound ; but Mr. G. concluded it an
earthquake : and, going immediately to the top of the house, found the sky
cloudy, but nothing like a thunder cloud in view ; only there was a shower of
rain from the eastward presently after, and the coldest that he has felt. But
since he finds it was attended (and he supposes caused) by a ball of fire, which
passed with great rapidity over the country, from westward to eastward. It
began with two great blows, like the reports of a cannon, which the jumbling
of the sashes prevented him distinguishing; and then rolled away till it was
heard no more. The appearance, it seems, was as that of a very large shoot-
ing-star ; and it left a train of light, which soon disappeared, it being noon
day. He met a pilot 2 days after, coming from Deal, who told him he saw no
fire-ball, but heard the noise, and that it made the ship shake he was in, going
from Gravesend to the Nore.


Concerning the Fire-ball seen in the Air, and a great Explosion heard, Dec. 1 1,
1741. By Mr. Christopher Mason. N°46a, p. 1. Fol.XLJI.AnnolJdl.

On that day, at Bucksteep, Sussex, about a quarter before one o'clock in the
afternoon, Mr. M. observed a very dark uncommon appearance in the north,
and at the same time the sun shone bright at his back ; when, on a sudden^


there was an explosion as violent as the report of a inortar-piece, attended with
a rumbling echo, which ran eastward ; and he judges it came from about 40°
elevation. Several people saw a ball of fire, which ran nearly eastward, leaving
a train of light, which continued some time. The ball of fire was seen, and the
report heard very loud, at Sompting, beyond Shoreham.

J Letter from Edward Milward, M.D. to Martin Folkes, Esq. F.R.S, con-
cerning an Antidote to the Indian Poison in the tVest-Indies. N° 462, p. 2.

Dr. M. here gives an account of an antidote against the Indian or Negro
poison, which was first purchased from a famous Negro poisoner, at a great
expence, by one who styles himself, Isaiah Burgess, Doctor of Physic ; and
the secret devolved to Dr. M., by means of a MS. of the Doctor's, which,
among others, he had procured, for his History of the Physical and Chirurgical
Writers of this Kingdom. The author intended this little tract, which con-
tains observations on the most considerable distempers in America, should be
made public ; he wrote it at the request of his friends, when an expedition was
designed into America ; and particularly declares, that he purposed the divulg-
ing of this specific antidote, that such as should go to the West-Indies, among
the Spaniards, might meet with a remedy in case of necessity. What pre-
vented the Doctor from executing this laudable design, was not known ; but as
it was plainly his intention it should be made public, and as the knowledge of
such a remedy may be of the greatest benefit to mankind, it is here communi-
cated to the Royal Society.

" The Negroes," says he, " use a poison of a strange and extraordinary na-
ture. The dose is very small, and it has no ill taste ; so that mixed with meat
or drink, it is not perceivable. It causes divers symptoms, and the effect is
various, according as the dose is large or small. It kills sometimes in a very
few hours, sometimes in some months, and at others in some years. The
symptoms are according to the quantity given : if great, it causes evacuations
upwards and downwards ; of excrements first, then of humours, and lastly of
blood, with fainting-fits, and sweatings. Death follows in 6 or 7 hours. The
Negroes turn white.

" If the dose is but small, the sick loses his appetite, feels pains in his head,
arms and limbs, a weariness all over, soreness in his breast, and difficulty of
breathing, so that he appears as being in a consumption, and at last dies lan-

" All remedies yet publicly known, are of no force nor virtue against this
poison ; and the patient certainly dies. Nay, he questions whether the best cor-


dial remedies can put the least stop to the efficacy of its venom, or retard death,
and put it off, longer than the intention of the cunning poisoner had fixed it,
in proportioning the dose.

" He adds, that the Spaniards have knowledge of this very poison, and was
satisfied that he had seen several Bucaneers die of it, given them by Spanish
women. He was also persuaded, that the same poison is used in Spain and

" This poison has but one specific antidote yet known ; the knowledge of
which cost him very dear : and it was with much difficulty he could persuade a
famous negro poisoner to part with his secret.

" The antidote is, the root of the sensible weed, as it is commonly called,
or herba sensitiva. It grows like a shrub, has no prickles, blossoms yellow,
and bears little cods, full of small black pretty seeds, of which the women
make necklaces and bracelets. Take none of the root but what is in the
ground ; wash it well, and split it in two. Take a good handful of these roots
so split, and steep them in 3 quarts of good clear water in an earthen glazed
pot, having a cover. Use but a moderate fire, that it may boil very gently.
The decoction has no ill taste, and you may either give it so, or add sugar, as
ycu shall think best. Give to the patient a good glass of this decoction, as
warm as he can drink it ; an hour after give another, and so for some time, as
you shall think it necessary to make a perfect cure. There is no danger of
giving too much ; it can do no harm at all. Several people have taken this de-
coction, though they have not been poisoned, thinking it would do them good
in other distempers; so that one who any ways suspects he has had some of that
poison given him, may drink it very safely, and in what quantity he pleases.
The rest of the plant is to be rejected as bad and noxious."

The Doctor enforces his observations by remarking, that he had been a prac-
titioner in those parts for above 25 years. Many Negroes, he says were wonder-
fully preserved and cured by taking this antidote, though, for brevity's sake,
he gives but one instance ; which is, " of a strong negro man, about 30 years
of age, and in perfect health, who being one night at a plantation 4 miles
distant from that where he lived, was invited to drink a dram of rum, by another
negro, who mixed poison with it. The fellow drank it up, perceiving nothing
to be in it ; but as he was taking leave, on the other's bidding him farewel, and
telling him he should never see him again, he suspected he was poisoned ; and
putting his finger in his mouth, vomited up great part of the poison, though
there remained enough of it to cause continual evacuations in him upwards
and downwards ; of excrements first, then of humours, and lastly of blood.


As he was coming home, he fainted away several times, and calling at length
to some neighbour's negro houses, was brought home extremely altered ; turned
white, and was, as it was thought, expiring. The root was immediately sent
for, and the decoction made, and given him in quantity. He continued taking
it for 3 or 4 days, and on the 5th went to work along with the rest of the

That the sensible plant is endowed with the property of resisting poison has
been formerly taken notice of. For Sir Hans Sloane, the late worthy president
of the R. S. whose writings will always remain an honour to his country, has
observed from Piso, that the root of this shrub is an antidote against the shrub
itself, which is very poisonous, and kills by degrees, making the unhappy suf-
ferers cachectical, short-winded, and melancholy, till they die. (Nat. Hist, of
Jamaica, Vol. II. p. 57-) This greatly corroborates what our author has ad-
vanced ; and it is observable, that he likewise directs all parts of the plant, ex-
cept that part of the root which is in the ground, to be rejected, as bad and
noxious : though whether this be exactly the same plant with what our author
mentions, he dares not determine ; as Sir Hans Sloane enquires whether it be
not the iEschynomene, seu Mimosa arborescens Americana, &c. flore albo ;
whereas Dr. Burgess expressly says, that its flowers are yellow: though this may,
possibly, be a mistake in him.

Dr. M. is sensible it may be objected, that the negro poison is of various
kinds ; and that therefore, though this remedy may be so extraordinary a spe-
cific in some cases, it may be unavailable in others. That the negroes may
have the knowledge of different sorts of poison, he denies not ; but it would
appear, from the universality of the effects of this medicine, (as the Doctor
affirms many have been wonderfully cured and preserved by it, and does not
mention a single instance of its miscarriage,) as though the negroes in the West-
Indies used but one kind of poison, or, if different, yet such as comes within
the power of this remedy. Besides, as we cannot be assured but by the con-
sequence, whether the poison be of that sort, as to be within the reach of this
remedy, or not, he thinks there is all the reason in the world it should be
administered under any suspicion of the Indian poison: especially, as the
Doctor assures us of its great innocence ; and he believes every one will readily
agree, that it is no small recommendation of a medicine, that let what will be-
come of its good effects, it can do no harm.


Of several Stones Jbund in Bags formed by a Protrusion of the Coats of the Blad-
der, as appeared on opening the Body of Mr. Gardiner. By Mr. Edward
Nourse, F. R. S. N° 462, p. 1 1 .

Mr. Gardiner was, on the 5th of March 1739, before the trustees appointed
by the Parliament to inquire into the efficacy of Mrs. Stephens's medicines,
produced as an instance, where they had been effectual in dissolving the stone
in the bladder.

He was searched by Mr. N. on Saturday the 30th of December 1738, who
felt a stone the moment his instrument was introduced ; which was likewise felt
by Mr. Wall, his apothecary, then present. Tuesday following Mr. G. began
to take Mrs. Stephens's medicines, and continued them 8 months.

On the 30th of November 1739. Mr. N. saw him at Child's Coffee-house,
when he told him he was quite free from his usual disorders. He there
searched him again, in the presence of several physicians and surgeons, who
likewise felt for the stone, but none could be found.

Mr. Gardiner dying on Saturday the 2d of January 1741-2, the next morn-
ing in the presence of Mr. St. Hill and Mr. Wall, Mr. N. opened his bladder,
and therein observed 6 preternatural apertures, of different sizes, the largest,
capable of admitting the top of his finger. Each of these openings led to a
separate bag, formed by an enlargement of the internal membrane of the blad-
der, protruded between the fibres of its muscular coat.

These bags were to be seen on the back part of the bladder, a little above
the vesiculae seminales; and when viewed on the outside, seemed to be but
two; though they were in number equal to the openings within, already
mentioned ; and divided from each other by the duplicature of the internal
membrane, which formed a septum between each of them.

In these sacculi, or bags, were contained 9 stones ; the largest about the
size of a small nutmeg ; and with what facility some of them moved out of,
and returned into, the sacculi, the following circumstance will clearly evince.

When Mr. N. had opened the abdomen, Mr. St. Hill, handling the bladder,
brought 1 of these stones up to its fundus, where they were felt by Mr. Wall
and himself. They then examined the kidneys : the right contained a little
matter, otherwise it was as it should be : but of the left, two-thirds were
wasted ; its pelvis was contracted in proportion, and the ureter almost im-
pervious. Rehandling the bladder, neither of them could feel any stone ; Mr.
N. therefore laid it open, and they fbund them all in the sacculi. The stones
that are in one of these sacculi, had been so much enlarged since their lodg-
ment, that without force and laceration they could not be got out.



Some further Observations concerning Electricity. By J. T. Desaguliers, LL. D.

F.R.S. N°462, p. 14.

Electrics per se, which Dr. D. has heretofore defined, bodies in which an
electrical virtue may be raised by some action on them, such as rubbing, patting,
warming, &c. are reduced to a non-electric state by being in contact with
non-electric bodies, especially water, which is the greatest non-electric, even
when it becomes vapour.

A non-electric, which though it cannot be made electrical by any action
upon it, receives electricity from an excited electrical body ; but does not retain
it while it touches any other non- electrical body. An electric per se, when it
is become non-electrical, differs from the non-electric per se in this ; that it
may be so restored to electricity, by applying a rubbed tube to it, as to repel
all other electrics of the same kind of electricity as the tube ; till it meets
with some non-electric body, which brings it back to non-electricity, or at least
to such a languid state, that its electricity is scarcely perceptible.

The electricity may be also restored in the same manner by wax, &c. But
in both cases, an electric body, in a languid state, cannot be restored to elec-
tricity while it adheres to a non -electric per se.

Experiments to illustrate these assertions. — From an horizontal cat-gut, which
is an electric per se, as most animal substances are, he suspended two feathers,
the one by a thread, and the other by a silk, about 2 feet long each : then ap-
plying the rubbed tube to the feather hanging by the silk, which silk is an
electric per se, the feather came to the tube, and stuck to it, as all non-
electric bodies do, till it was so impregnated with the virtue from the tube, as
to come out of its languid state, and become strongly electrical ; which ap-
peared by its flying from the tube, and being repelled as often as the tube was
brought near it ; till it had touched some non-electric body, or was left so long
as to imbibe the moist particles floating in the air ; by which it became non-
electric, and was again attracted by the tube.

On applying the tube to the other feather that hung by the thread, which,
like most vegetable substances, is generally non-electric per se, the feather was
constantly attracted, and never repelled ; because the virtue communicated
from the tube to the feather, lost itself along the thread ; which would have
been retained by the feather, if it had floated in dry air, or been suspended by
an electric body.

..vThese properties of electric bodies show the reason of that phenomenon, by
which a rubbed tube, after having attracted a feather, repels and chases it about


a room in the air, and does not attract it a second time, till the feather has
touched some other body ; and also shows the reason why the experiment does
not succeed in moist weather.

Pure air, that is dry, may be ranked among the electrics per se, because it
repels all bodies in a state of electricity, whether they have been excited to it
by wax or glass ; that is, by either of the two sorts of electricity.

Watery vapours, that float in the air, are non-electric ; from which mixture
the air becomes more languid in its electricity, when most impregnated with
vapours ; so that dry air is more electric than moist ; but cold air in frosty
weather, when vapours rise least of all, is more electric than air in summer,
when the heat raises vapours ; which renders that state of the air more fit for
making electrical experiments.

The rubbed tube retains its electricity a long time, because it repels, and is
repelled by, the dry air ; and the feather, which has been attracted by the tube,
after adhering to it a while, is raised out of its languid state to a strong electri-
city ; by which it flies from the tube, repels and is repelled by the air, where
meeting with very few vapours, it retains its electricity a long time ; till touch-
ing a non-electric, that is brought to it, it loses its own electricity by com-
municating it, becomes a non-electric, and is re-attracted by the tube, to which
adhering some time, it receives so much virtue from the tube, as to be restored
to its electricity, and again repelled.

In a moist state of the air, the feather, after it has been made electrical, and
repelled by the tube, it attracts to it the moist vapours floating in the air ; by
which losing its electricity, it is attracted by the tube, without touciiing any
other body first.

Sometimes, when the feather flies off^ from one part of the tube, it immedi-
ately returns to another part, generally the top of the tube, because the top of
the tube has attracted the moist vapours, and is become a non-electric, and
therefore attracts the feather ; which having become electric, flew ofi^ from the
electric part of the tube.

That this is true, appears from an experiment to be made in dry weather. At
that time, when every part of the tube repels the feather, strongly, after having
attracted it, if you wet 2 or 3 inches of the upper end of the tube, the feather
will come to that end. Wetting the silk by which the feather hangs from the
cat-gut, the feather will be always attracted, and not repelled.

When the silk is dry, the feather once made electrical, so as to be repelled
by the tube, retained that virtue above 2 hours in frosty weather ; but in moist
weather lost it in half a minute.

4A 2


An Observation of the Eclipse of the Moon, Dec. 2], 1740, at the Island of
St. Catharine on the Coast of Brasil. By the Hon. Captain Ed. Legge, F.R. S.
N°462, p. 18.

Capt. Legge observed that this eclipse of the moon began very nearly at 7^
5"" ; but the horizon being hazy, he could not observe exactly the beginning :
however, it ended exactly to a moment at 9^ 50"".

This eclipse was observed at the island of St. Catharine, on the coasts of
Brasil ; and the Captain places the island in latitude 27° 30'. Mr. Gael Morris
calculated the said eclipse ; and the middle of it, apparent time, at Green-
wich, was 11^ 44™ 50»

By the Captain's observation, supposing the beginning exact ... 8 27 30

Difference of meridian 3 17 20

= 49° 20'

The end of it, by calculation at Greenwich . 13 06 57

— — by Capt, Legge's observation 9 50 00

Difference of meridian 3 16 57

= 49° 14'
Capt. Legge observes, that in attempting to pass Cape Horn, they thought
themselves to have been more to the westward than they really were: by which
mistake, turning too soon to the north, they fell in with high lands, and met
with those misfortunes, which, if they had kept out more at sea, might pro-
bably have been avoided. By comparing the longitude at St. Catharine's as
above settled, with Senex's maps, the coasts appear to be placed about 6 de-
grees too much eastward ; and if the other parts of America about the Cape are
laid down as faultily in the charts, this error will probably account for their mis-

j4n Observation of extraordinary Warmth of the Air in January 1741-2.
By the Rev. Mr. H. Miles. Dated Tooting, Surrey, Jan. 20, 1741-2.
N° 462, p. 20.

The mercurial thermometer abroad, was last night, at 10 o'clock, 20° above
the freezing point ; which is higher than it was 16 mornings of the 31 in May
last, and higher than in any morning in April, one excepted.


Ths Description and Uses of the Steel-yard Balance Swing, invented and made
by Mr. Timothy Sheldrake. N" 462, p. 20.

Where crookedness is caused by bad accidents, as falls, breaking of bones,
or any such causes, attended with neglect ; there it is to be feared no help can
be given. But where a deformity of body is owing to some defect of health,
ill habit of body, or some internal cause, it may be in the power of art and care
to prevent growing worse; or with good care and endeavours, to recover
entirely. For which end Mr. S. communicates this steel-yard swing, for re-
storing such crooked persons, whose bones are tender, and capable of having
their form a little altered.

The body, being composed of bones with joints, covered with muscles, &c.
for moving the body, as necessity requires, so if any of these muscles that are
of use for bending the body forward, backward, downward, or raising it up-
ward, or for turning part of the body to the right or left side, have by illness,
or want of proper nourishment flowing so freely to one side as the other, or by
a careless way of sitting or lying, been contracted on one side of the body, by
which the bones are braced closer together than nature intended ; in this case,
the hip generally rises, the shoulder on the same side falls lower: the great sup-
port of the body, the vertebrae of the back, are altered from their natural up-
rightness to a curve, and the other side extended to too great a length : thus
the viscera are pressed too close on the contracted side, and probably hindered
from performing their due ofiice; while on the contrary side, which is extended
beyond its due bounds, there is too much room for them, that may give too
large a growth to them, or render them too lax and weak. From this united
ill state of the viscera, it is possible that crooked persons are generally un-

For removing this distorted form, and recovering a better, this steel-yard
swing is proposed, as a mechanical method, for stretching the contracted side,
and giving liberty to the too-much extended side to contract; that the sides may
thus be brought to their original and regular form, by suspending the crooked
person with cords properly covered for ease, and put under each arm, and then
placed at equal distances from the centre of the beam. The gravity of the body

Online LibraryRoyal Society (Great Britain)The Philosophical transactions of the Royal society of London, from their commencement in 1665, in the year 1800 (Volume 8) → online text (page 63 of 85)