ERIPUIT COELO FULMEN . . . .
WHILE Franklin's place in the development of electrology in Italy is known in broad outline, 1 the complex interplay of national and international forces, personalities, and ideas that attended the establishment of the Franklinian system in the peninsula has been largely overlooked. In particular, the powerful stimulus given to electrology in Italy by the "father of electricity" in person needs to be appraised as an important reason for the quick and thorough adoption of the single fluid theory of electricity that underlay Italian leadership in the infant science through the time of Volta. Although Franklin's contribution to the new science was substantially completed with the publication of the monumental Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America ( London, 1751), his personality continued to overshadow electrical science until his death, the enormous political prestige of his later years serving somehow to enhance his glory as a scientist. The numerous direct relationships with many of the most important Italian electrologists of the day reveal that, like Antaeus and the earth, those scientists eagerly sought contact with him and gained inspiration and strength from every conversation, letter, or sign of approval.
Franklin's name first reached Italy as that of an obscure Anglo- American "electrician." The enthusiastic reactions of the footloose philosophe Francesco Algarotti in a letter of the year 1755 to his friend the Bolognese jurisconsult and poet G. A. Taruffi2 are representative of the first Italian response to the news of Franklin's great discoveries:
Behold from English America there come to us not only tobacco and indigo, but also philosophical systems. From Philadelphia a Quaker has sent us the most beautiful observations, the most beautiful reasonings in the world on electricity; and all our European electricians must doff their hats to this American.
The glow of admiration is still perceptible in another letter written by Algarotti two years later to the Jesuit polymath Saverio Bettinelli: 3
Indeed English philosophy will get a foothold in Italy . . .; and I rejoice that Newton has got what Descartes had desired so much. Who ever would have believed a while ago that England, which was reputed to be a country of louts, would excel so and legislate in matters of
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Benjamin Franklin and Italy. Contributors: Antonio Pace - Author. Publisher: American Philosophical Society. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 1958. Page number: 17.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.