I’m reading “The Invention of Air” by Steven Johnson, which talks a lot about Joseph Priestly’s experiments with electricity, discovery of oxygen, etc, and also about the scientific community of the time: Priestly had many interactions with (and got much encouragement from) Benjamin Franklin; Thomas Jefferson is also involved in the story, but I’m not to that spot in the tale yet.
Where I am in the book (p71), there’s a quote, the last paragraph from a September 1753 letter from Franklin to botanist Peter Collinson:
These Thoughts, my dear Friend, are many of them crude and hasty, and if I were merely ambitious of acquiring some Reputation in Philosophy, I ought to keep them by me, ‘till corrected and improved by Time and farther Experience. But since even short Hints and imperfect Experiments in any new Branch of Science, being communicated, have oftentimes a good Effect, in exciting the attentions of the Ingenious to the Subject, and so become the Occasion of more exact disquisitions and more compleat Discoveries, you are at Liberty to communicate this Paper to whom you please; it being of more Importance that Knowledge should increase, than that your Friend should be thought an accurate Philosopher.
(You can read the whole letter, which details Franklin’s recent researches into electricity, here — it starts on p148, ends on p153.)
I’m inspired to post this here because I happened to have just registered to attend Portland’s Open Source Bridge conference, coming up June 1-4 &emdash; the open source movement is the next Age of Enlightenment.