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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/264

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

posed to be, and, by using pure water, lie caused the electric spark to become visible in it, a phenomenon capable of occurring only through media almost nonconducting. In these experiments he used thick glass tubes with wires led through the opposite ends, the latter being sealed, and the tubes filled with water. These were invariably shattered by the passage of the spark on account of the accompanying elevation of temperature, which caused expansion. He also established the facts that the atmosphere adjacent to an electrified body acquires electrification of the same sign by abstracting electricity from the body, and that the air then parts with its electricity very slowly. He advanced the theory that there is a mutual repulsion between the particles of the electric fluid and those of air, and that a temporary vacuum is formed at the moment of the passage of a disruptive discharge or spark.

Robert Symmer, in 1759, described some most entertaining experiments, making use of the opposite electrifications of superposed stockings of different materials or merely of different colors (the dye matters in the latter case causing differentiation). If, in a dry atmosphere, a silk stocking be drawn over the leg and a woolen one pulled over it, the two will be found, upon being removed, to be very powerfully electrified in opposite senses. If the four stockings of two such pairs be used and then suspended together, they will indulge in remarkable antics due to each of the silk stockings trying to attract both of the woolen ones, and vice versa, and, on the other hand, each of each kind repelling the other. The amount of electrical attraction and repulsion produced in this simple way in a dry atmosphere is remarkable. The experiment may also be performed with all silk stockings, one pair white and the other black.

Symmer advanced the theory of two fluids coexisting in all matter (not independently of each other, as had been previously supposed), which by mutual counteractions produced all electrical phenomena. His conception was that a body, positively electrified, did not exist in that condition because of the possession of a charge of a positive (as distinct from a negative) electric fluid which it had not held before, and did not hold in a normal state; nor that it possessed a greater share of a single electric fluid than it did in an unelectrified condition, as had been believed by Franklin and Watson, and by Dufay respectively; but that such a body contained both positive and negative electricities which, when the body behaved as "unelectrified," entirely counteracted each other, but which, on the other hand, caused a positive or negative charge to be evinced should either positive or negative electricity respectively preponderate.

Æpinus was the author of another notable theory, of which we must omit further mention for want of space.