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

By Charles Tanford

Benjamin Franklin was once the 1st to document the phenomenon of oil's energy to nonetheless bothered waters and to invest on why it occurred. A century later Lord Rayleigh played an analogous scan. Irving Langmuir did it with minor adaptations in 1917, and received a Nobel Prize for it. Then Langmuir's paintings was once by means of a Dutch pediatrician's in 1925. p each one experimenter observed a bit extra within the outcome than his predecessor had visible, and the sciences of physics, chemistry and biology have all been illuminated by means of the paintings. p Charles Tanford displays at the evolving nature of technology and of person scientists. Recounting ideas in each one trial, he follows the vintage test from Franklin's drawing room to our present-day institutionalized medical institutions and speculates at the resulting adjustments in our method of clinical inquiry.

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Extra 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

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He chose science, which required an arduous course of study at the University of Rostock and a proper doctoral dissertation, which had to be defended before a committee, much as we do nowadays. Wilcke passed the requirements with honor and some fame in 1757 and subsequently became a professor in Sweden. There is some irony in this, because Wilcke’s thesis was on the subject of Ben Franklin’s electrical experiments of a few years earlier. Its most important aspect was a critical examination of the objections to Franklin’s work that had been raised by the French electrician, the Abbé Nollet–– which Wilcke was by and large able to discount.

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. Priestley’s single visit to the European Continent also took place while he was in Shelburne’s service. He met his subsequent rival, Antoine Lavoisier, during this trip and demonstrated to him the release of the new gas from mercuric oxide to him.

A year later, Franklin spent his last day in London alone with Priestley before embarking for Philadelphia, and even shed tears in his presence for the era that had ended. The reason for their friendship is not entirely clear. Priestley was twenty-seven years younger than Franklin. He was a provocative non-conformist in religion (one of the founders of Unitarianism) and as heretical as Franklin in his politics. But he may have been partially motivated by some stubborn inner need to take unpopular positions for their own sake and not so much by common sense as Franklin was.

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