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AN ECONOMICAL PROJECT
A translation of this Letter appeared in one of the
daily papers of Paris about the year 1784. The following is the original piece, with some addie tions and corrections made by the Author.
To the Authors of the Journal.
You often entertain us with accounts of new disco. veries. Permit me to communicate to the public. through your paper, one that lias lately been inada by myself, and which I conceive may be of great utility.
I was the other evening in a grand company, where the new lamp of Messrs. Quinquet and Lange was introduceil, and inuch admired for its splendour; but a general inquiry was made, whether the oil it consuned was not in proportion to the light it afforded, in which case there would be no saving in the use of it. No one present could satisiy us it that point, which all agreed ought to be known, it being a very desirable thing to lessen, if possible, the expense of lighting our apartinents, when every other article of family expense was so much augmented.
I was pleased to see this general concer for economy, for I love economy exceedingly.
I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject. An accidental sudden noisą waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light; and I inayined at first, that a number of those lamps had been brought into it: but, rubbing my eyes,
perceived the light carne in at the windows. I got up and Inoked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber, my domestic having negligently omitted the preceding evening to close the shutters.
I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was about six o'clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise se early, I looked into the almanack, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o'clock. Your readers, who with me have never senn any signs of sunshine befor noon, and seldiom regard the astronomical part o the almanack, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assured them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I ain convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes. And having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result.
Yet it so happens, that when I speak of this disco very to others, I can easily perceive by their coun tenances, though they forbear expressing it in words, that they do not quite believe me. One, indeed, who is a learned natural philosopher, has assured me, that I must certainly be inistaken as to the circumstance of the light coming into my room ; for it being well known, as he says, that there could be no light abroad at that hour, it follows that none could enter from without; and that of consequence, my windows being accidentally left open, instead or letting in the iight, had only served to let out the darkness : and he used many ingenious arguments to show me how I might, by that means, have been deceived. I own that he
puzzled me a little, but he did not satisfy me; and the subsequent observations I made, as above mention, ed, confirined me in my first opinion.
This event has given rise, in my mind, to several serious and important reflections. I considered that, if I had not been awakened so early in the morning, I should have slept six hours longer by the of the sun, and in exchange have lived six hours the followiug night by candle-light; and the latter being I much more expensive light than the former, my
love of economy induced me to muster up what little arithmetic I was master of, and to make some cal. culations, which I shall give you, after observing, that utility is, in my opinion, the test of value in matders of invention, and that a discovery which can be applied to no use, or is not good for something, is good for nothing.
I took for the basis of my calculation the supposr tion, that there are 100,000 families in Paris and that hese families consume in the night half a pound o bougies, or candles, per hour. I think this is a moderate allowance, taking one family with another; for though I believe some consume less, I know that many consume a great deal more. Then estimating seven hours per day,as the medium quantity between the time of the sun's rising and ours, he rising during the six following inonths from six to eight hours before noon, and there being seven hours of course per night in which we burn candles, the account will stand thus :
In the six months between the twentieth of March and the twentieth of September, there are Nights
183 Jours of each night in which we buin candles
Multiplication gives for the total number of hours
1,281 These 1,281 hours multiplied by 100,000,
the number of inhabitants given • 128,100,000 One hundred twenty-eight millions and
one hundred thousand hours, spent at Paris by candle-light, which at half a pound of wax and allow per hour, gives the weight of
64,050,001 Sixty-four millions and fifty thousand of
pounds, wnich, estimating the whole at ihe medium price of thirty sols the pound, makes the sum of ninety-six millions and seventy-five thousand livres tournois
96,075.000 An immense sum ! that the city of Paris mighe save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.
If it should be said, that people are apt to be ob stinately attached to old customs, and that it will be difficult to induce them to rise before noon, consequently my discovery can be of little use; I answer, Na desperandum. I believe all who hare common sense, as soon as they have learnt from this paper that it is day-light when the sun rises, will contriv to risc with hiin; and, to compel the rest I wou. propose the following regulations :
First. Let a tax be laid of a louis per window, on very window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun.
Second. Let the same salutary operation of pohce be made use of to prevent our burning candles, that inclined us last winter to be more economical in burning wood; that is, let guards be placed in the shops of the wax and talluw-chandlers, and no family be permitted to be supplied with more than one pound of candles per week.
Third. Let guards also be posted to stop all tho coaches, &c. that would pass the streets after sunset, except those of physicians, surgeons, and inid wives.
Fourth. Every morning, as soon as the sun ri. ses, let all the bells in every church be set a ring ing; and if that is not sufficient, let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their truc
All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natu
al and easy as the present irregularity; for n'est que le premier pas qui coute. Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than prne bable he shall go willingly to bed at eight in the even. ing; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four the following morning. But this sum of ninety-six millions, and seventy-fivo thousand livres is not the whole of what may be şved by nuy economical project. You may obserto
that I have calculated upon orly one half of the year, and much may be saved in the other, though the days are shorter. Besides, the immense stock of wax and tallow left unconsumed during the suramer, will probably make candles much cheaper for the ensuing winter, and continue cheaper as long as the proposed reforination shall be supported.
For the great benefit of this discovery, thus freely communicated and bestowed by nie on the public, I demand neither place, pension, exclusive privilege or any other reward whatever. I expect only to have the bonour of it. And yet I know there are little envious minds who will, as usual, deny me this, and say, that my invention was known to the ancients, and perhaps they may bring passages out of the old books in proof of it. I will not dispute with these people that the ancients knew not that the sun would rise at certain hours; they possibly had, as we have, almanacks that predicted it: but it does not follow from thence, thai they knew he gave light as soon as he rose. This is what I claim as my discovery. If the ancients knew it, it must have been long since forgotten, for it certainly was unknown 10 the inoderns, at least to the Parisians; which to prove, I need use but one plain simple argument. They are as well instructed, judicious, and prudent a people as exist any where in the world, all professing, like myself, to be lovers of economy; and from the many heavy taxes required froin them for the necessities of the state, have surely reason to be economical. I say, it is impossible that so sensible a people under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unc.holesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they miglit have had as much pure light of the sun fua wutking. I ann, &c.