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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index F > Benjamin Franklin Quotes > Experiment

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Benjamin Franklin
(17 Jan 1706 - 17 Apr 1790)

American statesman, scientist, inventor, diplomat, author, printer and publisher.

Benjamin Franklin Quotes on Experiment (7 quotes)

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And we daily in our experiments electrise bodies plus or minus, as we think proper. [These terms we may use till your Philosophers give us better.] To electrise plus or minus, no more needs to be known than this, that the parts of the Tube or Sphere, that are rubb'd, do, in the Instant of Friction, attract the Electrical Fire, and therefore take it from the Thin rubbing; the same parts immediately, as the Friction upon them ceases, are disposed to give the fire they have received, to any Body that has less.
— Benjamin Franklin
Letter 25 May 1747. Quoted in I. Bernard Cohen, Franklin and Newton: An Enquiry into Speculative Newtonian Experimental Science and Franklin’s Work in Electricity as an Example Thereof (1956), 439.
Science quotes on:  |  Electrostatics (4)  |  Nomenclature (128)

At length being at Clapham where there is, on the common, a large pond which, I observed to be one day very rough with the wind, I fetched out a cruet of oil and dropt a little of it on the water. I saw it spread itself with surprising swiftness upon the surface; but the effect of smoothing the waves was not produced; for I had applied it first on the leeward side of the pond, where the waves were largest, and the wind drove my oil back upon the shore. I then went to the windward side, where they began to form; and there the oil, though not more than a tea-spoonful, produced an instant calm over a space several yards square, which spread amazingly, and extended itself gradually till it reached the leeside, making all that quarter of the pond, perhaps half an acre, as smooth as a looking-glass.
[Experiment to test an observation made at sea in 1757, when he had seen the wake of a ship smoothed, explained by the captain as presumably due to cooks emptying greasy water in to the sea through the scuppers.]
— Benjamin Franklin
Letter, extract in 'Of the still of Waves by Means of Oil The Gentleman's Magazine (1775), Vol. 45, 82.
Science quotes on:  |  Acre (4)  |  Calm (10)  |  Experiment (490)  |  Glass (33)  |  Oil (27)  |  Pond (5)  |  Spread (17)  |  Still (3)  |  Surface (58)  |  Wave (48)  |  Wind (45)

Chagrined a little that we have been hitherto able to produce nothing in this way of use to mankind; and the hot weather coming on, when electrical experiments are not so agreeable, it is proposed to put an end to them for this season, somewhat humorously, in a party of pleasure, on the banks of Skuylkil. Spirits, at the same time, are to be fired by a spark sent from side to side through the river, without any other conductor that the water; an experiment which we some time since performed, to the amazement of many. A turkey is to be killed for our dinner by the electrified bottle: when the healths of all the famous electricians in England, Holland, France, and Germany are to be drank in electrified bumpers, under the discharge of guns from the electrical battery.
— Benjamin Franklin
Letter to Peter Collinson, 29 Apr 1749. In I. Bernard Cohen (ed.), Benjamin Franklin's Experiments (1941), 199-200.
Science quotes on:  |  Electricity (109)  |  Experiment (490)

I always rejoice to hear of your being still employed in experimental researches into nature, and of the success you meet with. The rapid progress true science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon: it is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter; we may perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its labour and double its produce; all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured (not excepting even that of old age), and our lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian standard. Oh! that moral science were in as fair a way of improvement; that men would cease to be wolves to one another; and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity!
— Benjamin Franklin
Letter to Dr Priestley, 8 Feb 1780. In Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin (1845), Vol. 2, 152.
Science quotes on:  |  Experiment (490)  |  Gravity (81)  |  Science (1323)

In going on with these Experiments, how many pretty systems do we build, which we soon find ourselves oblig’d to destroy! If there is no other Use discover’d of Electricity, this, however, is something considerable, that it may help to make a vain Man humble.
— Benjamin Franklin
Letter to Peter Collinson, 14 Aug 1747. In I. Bernard Cohen (ed.), Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments (1941), 63.
Science quotes on:  |  Electricity (109)  |  Experiment (490)

Let the experiment be made.
— Benjamin Franklin
Letter to Dr L—, 18 March 1755. In I. Bernard Cohen (ed.), Benjamin Franklin's Experiments (1941), 334.
Science quotes on:  |  Experiment (490)

Some guns were fired to give notice that the departure of the balloon was near. ... Means were used, I am told, to prevent the great balloon's rising so high as might endanger its bursting. Several bags of sand were taken on board before the cord that held it down was cut, and the whole weight being then too much to be lifted, such a quantity was discharged as would permit its rising slowly. Thus it would sooner arrive at that region where it would be in equilibrio with the surrounding air, and by discharging more sand afterwards, it might go higher if desired. Between one and two o’clock, all eyes were gratified with seeing it rise majestically from above the trees, and ascend gradually above the buildings, a most beautiful spectacle. When it was about two hundred feet high, the brave adventurers held out and waved a little white pennant, on both sides of their car, to salute the spectators, who returned loud claps of applause. The wind was very little, so that the object though moving to the northward, continued long in view; and it was a great while before the admiring people began to disperse. The persons embarked were Mr. Charles, professor of experimental philosophy, and a zealous promoter of that science; and one of the Messrs Robert, the very ingenious constructors of the machine.
While U.S. ambassador to France, writing about witnessing, from his carriage outside the garden of Tuileries, Paris, the first manned balloon ascent using hydrogen gas on the afternoon of 1 Dec 1783. A few days earlier, he had watched the first manned ascent in Montgolfier's hot-air balloon, on 21 Nov 1783.
— Benjamin Franklin
Letter to Sir Charles Banks (1 Dec 1783). In The Writings of Benjamin Franklin: 1783-1788 (1906), Vol. 9, 119-120.
Science quotes on:  |  Aeronautics (10)  |  Balloon (7)  |  Jacques-Alexandre-César Charles (2)

See also:
  • 17 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Franklin's birth.
  • Benjamin Franklin - context of quote “Dangerous... to take shelter under a tree, during a thunder-gust” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Benjamin Franklin - context of quote “Dangerous... to take shelter under a tree, during a thunder-gust” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Benjamin Franklin.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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