Observations-effects-lightning-floating-bodies-b293dbbc-d461-42d7-bcd7-af504b44d1f1

Description

London, W. Nicol, 1823. 4to. Uncut and unopened in contemp. clothbacked boards. (2),89,(1) pp., 5 lithographed plate and 1 plate printed with leaves of gold. On good paper. Clean and wide-margined. ¶ Extremely scarce first edition. The fragments of the leaves of gold on the plate shows the effects of the electrical discharge through various arrangements of the gold as the gold imitates metallic conductors fixed along the masts of ships.
In 1820, William Snow Harris invented a system of fixed lightning conductor plates which were routed along the aft side of the mast down through the hull to the copper sheathing on the bottom of the ship. Harris spent the next twenty-five years trying to persuade the British Admiralty to test his system and require its installation. For years, old prejudices against lightning conductors, notions of economy, and bureaucratic suspicions of technological innovation frustrated his efforts. It took a successful trial installation on eleven ships, an extensive campaign by Harris to publicize the extent of lightning damage to the navy, the favorable recommendations of two study committees, and administrative changes in the Admirality before the Royal Navy finally adopted the Harris conductors in 1842.

Ronalds p. 288: "Note.- The illustration accompanies plate 1. The lines on the paper originally consisted of gold leaf... A discharge has been passed over the gold leaf to show by its deflagration the course of the electrical matter."

Wheeler Gift,801.

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