Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters

By Leonard W. Labaree; Benjamin Franklin et al. | Go to book overview

Sister, farewell, and remember that modesty, as it makes the most homely virgin amiable and charming, so the want of it infallibly renders the most perfect beauty disagreeable and odious. But when that brightest of female virtues shines among other perfections of body and mind in the same person, it makes the woman more lovely than an angel. Excuse this freedom, and use the same with me. I am, dear Jenny,

Your loving brother,

B. Franklin


THE SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT

PETER COLLINSON, a London Quaker merchant who was agent for several Philadelphia institutions, sent the Library Company in 1746 a glass tube of the kind "philosophers" were using in electrical experiments. Franklin and several friends immediately began to make experiments of their own, observed some phenomena they thought new, and communicated these observations to the learned in England in the form of letters, mostly addressed to Collinson. The merchant read Franklin's letters to the Royal Society and offered them to the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine for publication. Some of these letters appeared in London in 1751 as a pamphlet entitled Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America. This work, together with its supplements, later editions, and foreign translations, firmly established Franklin's reputation throughout Europe as a scientist. Two personal letters to Collinson, both written in the first months of Franklin's career as an "electrician" but neither included in the earliest editions of this memorable book, suggest better than more formal communications could both the fascinated wonder of Franklin and his circle at the phenomena they were observing for the first time, and the humility of a scientist who would study nature and derive her laws.

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