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An Attempt to account for the Production of a Shower of Stones,
that fell in Tuscany, on the 16th of June, 1794 ; and to shew that there are Traces of similar Events having taken place, in the highest Ages of Antiquity. In the course of which Detail is also inserted, an Account of an extraordinary Hailstone, that fell, with many others, in Cornwall, on the 20th of October, 1791.
Having received this last winter, from Sir Charles Blagden, some very curious manuscript accounts, concerning a surprising shower of stones; which is said, on the testimony of several persons, to have fallen in Tuscany, on the 16th of June, 1794 ;—and having also perused, with much attention,
very interesting pamphlet, written in Italian, by Abbate Ambrose Soldani, Professor of mathematics, in the University of Siena, containing an extraordinary and full detail of such facts as could be collected relating to this shower; the whole has appeared to me to afford such an ample field for philosophical contemplation, and also for the illustration of antient historic facts ; that (leaving the whole to rest upon such testimony as the learned Professor has already collected together; and to be supported by such further corroboration, as I am informed is likely soon to arrive in England,) I cannot but think it doing some service to the cause of literature, and science, to give to the world, in the earliest instance, a short
abridgement of the substance of the whole of the information ; expressed in the most concise and plainest language, in which it is possible for me to convey a full and exact idea of the phænomenon.
It may be of some use, and afford satisfaction to several curious persons, to find the whole here compressed in so small a compass.
And, as I shall add my own conclusions without reserve ; because the whole of the phænomenon tends greatly to confirm some ideas which I had previously been led to form, many years ago, concerning the consolidation of certain species of stone; it may open a door for further curious investigation.
And it may at least amuse, if not instruct; whilst I add a short detail of uncommon facts, recorded in antient history, and tending to shew clearly, that we are not without precedents of similar events having happened, in the early ages of antiquity.
On the 16th of June, 1794, a tremendous cloud was seen in Tuscany, near Siena, and Radacofani; coming from the north, about seven o'clock in the evening ;-sending forth sparks, like rockets ;--throwing out smoke like a furnace ;-rendering violent explosions, and blasts, more like those of cannon, and
of numerous muskets, than like thunder ;-and casting down • to the ground hot stones :—whilst the lightning that issued
from the cloud was remarkably red; and moved with less velocity than usual.
The cloud appeared of different shapes; to persons in different situations; and remained suspended a long time : but every where was plainly seen to be burning, and smoking like a furnace.
And its original height, from a variety of circumstances put together, seems to have been much above the common region of the clouds.
The testimony, concerning the falling of the stones from it, appears to be almost unquestionable :-and is, evidently, from different persons, who had no communication with each other.
For first; the fall of four stones is precisely ascertained : one of which was of an irregular figure, with a point like that of a diamond ;-weighed five pounds and an half;—and had a vitriolic smell.–And another weighed three pounds and an half ;—was black on the outside, as if from smoke ;—and, internally, seemed composed of matter of the colour of ashes;in which were perceived small spots of metals, of gold and silver.
And, besides these, Professor Soldani of Siena, was shewn about fifteen others : the surfaces of which were glazed black, like a sort of varnish ;-resisted acids ;-and were too hard to be scratched with the point of a penknife.
Signior Andrew Montauli, who saw the cloud, as he was travelling, described it as appearing much above the common region of the clouds; and as being clearly discerned to be on fire ;—and becoming wliite, by degrees; not only where it had a communication, by a sort of stream of smoke and lightning, with a neighbouring similar cloud: but also, at last, in twothird parts of its whole mass, which was originally black. And yet he took notice, that it was not affected by the rays of the sun, though they shone full on its lower parts.—And he could discern as it were the bason of a fiery furnace, in the cloud, having a whirling motion.
This curious observer gives an account also, of a stone,
which he was assured fell from the cloud, at the feet of a farmer; and was dug out of the ground, into which it had penetrated.-And he says, that it was about five inches long, and four broad; nearly square ; and polished : black on the surface, as if smoked; but within, like a sort of sand-stone, with various small particles of iron, and bright metallic stars.
Other stones are described by him ; which were said to have fallen at the same time: were triangular ; and terminated in a sort of (pyramidal) or conical figure.—And others were so small as to weigh not more than an ounce.
Professor Soldani saw another stone, said to have fallen from the cloud, which had the figure of a parallelopiped, blunted at the angles; and was as it were varnished, on the outside, with a black crust; and quite unlike any stones whatever of the soil of the country where it had fallen.
Two ladies being at Cozone, about 20 miles from Siena, saw a number of stones fall, with a great noise, in a neighbouring meadow: one of which, being soon after taken up by a young woman, burnt her hand : another burnt a countryman's hat : and a third was said to strike off the branch of a mulberry tree; and to cause the tree to wither.
Another stone, of about two ounces weight, fell near a girl watching sheep ; a young person, whose veracity it is said could not be doubted.—This stone, the Professor tells us, is also a parallelopiped, with the angles rounded; and its internal substance is like that of the others; only with more metallic spots; especially when viewed with a magnifying glass : and the black external crust appears to be minutely crystallized.
Many others, of a similar kind, were in the possession of different persons at Siena.