ELECTRIC'ITY, n. The operations of a very subtil fluid, which appears to be diffused through most bodies, remarkable for the rapidity of its motion, and one of the most powerful agents in nature. The name is given to the operations of this fluid, and to the fluid itself. As it exists in bodies, it is denominated a property of those bodies, though it may be a distinct substance, invisible, intangible and imponderable. When an electric body is rubbed with a soft dry substance, as with woolen cloth, silk or fur, it attracts or repels light substances, at a greater or less distance, according to the strength of the electric virtue; and the friction may be continued, or increased, till the electric body will emit sparks or flashes resembling fire, accompanied with a sharp sound. When the electric fluid passes from cloud to cloud, from the clouds to the earth, or from the earth to the clouds, it is called lightning, and produces thunder. Bodies which, when rubbed, exhibit this property, are called electrics or non-conductors. Bodies, which,when excited, do not exhibit this property, as water and metals, are called non-electrics or conductors, as they readily convey electricity from one body to another, at any distance, and such is the rapidity of the electric fluid in motion, that no perceptible space of time is required for its passage to any known distance.
It is doubted by modern philosophers whether electricity is a fluid or material substance. Electricity, according to Professor Silliman, is a power which causes repulsion and attraction between the masses of bodies under its influence; a power which causes the heterogeneous particles of bodies to separate, thus producing chimical decomposition; one of the causes of magnetism.
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