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Cautions against the Effects of Lightning, The Mirror, Saturday, April 19, 1823.

Many and often are the accidents occasioned by the effects of lightning, some of which are altogether unavoidable, but there are others which might in some measure be rendered harmless were proper preservatives used: the want of consideration as to its nature and phenomenon, often lead astray; it shall be my endeavour to point out those effects, and the most likely methods of protection.

The nature of lightning is uncontrovertably proved to be electricity, which was first discovered by Dr. Franklin, by means of an electrical kite, which he caused to be raised during the passage of a thunder cloud, when a piece of metal which he suspended at the end of the line, exhibited all the phenomenon which is produced by the electrical machine; this and subsequent experiments led to greater proofs, and infallibly substantiated the cause and nature of lightning, and also the universality of the electric fluid.

Lightning is the accumulation of great quantities of electric fluid; thus when a cloud becomes surcharged with too great an abundance, on the approach of another less charged, or, as it is termed, negatively electrified, compared with the former, a discharge takes place between them, and the superabundance of the surcharged cloud is received by the less, and thus an equilibrium is produced; thunder being the report produced by the sudden revolution or explosion.

Thus lightning being always disposed to discharge itself when accumulated in great quantities, it happens if no other cloud is near, and if it approaches pretty near the earth, it discharges itself on the highest buildings or eminences: hence the utility of the conductors (invented by Dr. Franklin) attached to the highest part of a building and carried to the ground, or a pool of water where the fluid may be received with safely ; these being made with metal and pointed at the top, receive the fluid of the passing cloud without any injury to the building; this may be applied as the safest guard to all buildings whatsoever, attached to the masts of ships, &c. &c.

The best precaution for the body must depend in some measure upon circumstances and situation; when journeying or walking, should a parson be overtaken by a storm, many run under trees to obtain shelter from the rain, and have thereby-lost their lives, not considering that they attract the lightning; whereas they would be much safer were they to enter an open field or plain, permitting the rain to wet the surface of their bodies; then there would be less danger, owing to the lowness of their situation; and the moisture of their clothes (should the lightning even there strike them) would in every probability carry off the electric fluid.

Again, should a violent storm occur when in a building where the above-mentioned conductor is not used, the lowest part of the house will be the safest, the cellar, if any, safer still; but should the storm increase so as to appear dangerous, four wine bottles might be placed in the centre of the cellar, with a shutter placed on them, the bottles used as supports, glass not being a conductor of electric fluid, they will thus become insolated; on this a person might recline and be free from danger.

With these practical remarks the person must consider also local situation, surrounding buildings, whether in the centre of a plain or surrounded by trees, which if higher than the building will first receive injury; the lapse of time also between the flash and the consequent thunder clap, will also intimate the degree of danger.

These short remarks, it is hoped, may be of use, and be instrumental in saving a fellow creature from a calamity frequently occasioned by either not knowing, or reflecting upon the phenomena of lightning, or the best modes of protection, which these observations are offered in some measure to obviate. T. N-----r.

 

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