Ben Franklin Stilled the Waves: An Informal History of by Charles Tanford

By Charles Tanford

Benjamin Franklin used to be the 1st to document the phenomenon of oil's strength to nonetheless waters and to take a position on why it occurred. A century later Lord Rayleigh played the same scan. Irving Langmuir did it with minor adaptations in 1917, and gained a Nobel Prize for it. Then Langmuir's paintings was once through a Dutch pediatrician's in 1925. p every one experimenter observed a bit extra within the consequence than his predecessor had noticeable, and the sciences of physics, chemistry and biology have all been illuminated via the paintings. p Charles Tanford displays at the evolving nature of technology and of person scientists. Recounting thoughts in each one trial, he follows the vintage scan from Franklin's drawing room to our present-day institutionalized medical institutions and speculates at the resulting adjustments in our method of medical inquiry.

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Additional info for Ben Franklin Stilled the Waves: An Informal History of Pouring Oil on Water with Reflections on the Ups and Downs of Scientific Life in General

Example text

Shelburne provided a laboratory for Priestley, and most of Priestley’s best experimental work, summarized in the famous book Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air, was done during this period. The work included the discovery in 1774 of a new “air” (today we would say “gas”) with unexpected properties, obtained by heating mercuric oxide, and this new substance of course subsequently proved to be oxygen and to herald the beginning of a revolution in chemistry as profound as the revolution in physics that Newton had initiated a century before.

At home they thought he had been bought, perhaps by royal favors. The second occasion was in 1774 in London, when he was insulted and berated at a Privy Council hearing that was ostensibly called to consider a Massachusetts petition. It was in the quiet period between these two storms that his experiments with oil spread on water were carried out. Perhaps they helped to calm the man as well as the waves. Franklin’s first fall from public favor was dramatically reversed in 1766, when the Stamp Act was repealed.

Franklin had rigorously studied the science of his day, had read all  B F the scientific writings he could obtain. He had read Newton’s Opticks, the works of Robert Boyle, of Stephen Hales, and of experimental philosophers from the European Continent. He was helped by a stream of correspondence from Peter Collinson in London, who wrote regularly to the Library Company, to communicate everything new that had been reported at meetings of the Royal Society, of which Collinson was an active Fellow.

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