Home > History of Wine > “The supposed Revival of Insects after long Immersion in Wine”

“The supposed Revival of Insects after long Immersion in Wine”


It is probably known to many Madeira historians that Dr. Benjamin Franklin believed he resuscitated two or three flies drowned in a bottle of Madeira.[1]  He believed the flies were enclosed in a bottle that was sealed in Virginia then opened in London.  Upon being placed on a sieve in the sun “two of them began by degrees to recover life…The third continued lifeless until sunset, when, losing all hopes of him, he was thrown away.”

“The number of insects of each kind that have been killed by immersion in wine, brandy, and beer.”

Perhaps less known is that Mr. John Gough sought to “controvert a notion relative to the nature of insects” which apparently became accepted based on Dr. Franklin’s observations.[2]  He set out four different experiments involving submersion in wine, brandy, and beer for different durations.  Flies submerged in wine for two or three minutes did recover both in the sun and when kept warm “by means of the human breath.”  However, flies which were submerged on July 12, 1793, then exposed to sun on August 20, 1794,  did not return to life.  “On the contrary, they were found dry and shrivelled, though their bodies appeared plump and in high preservation when taken out of the bottle.”


[1] Franklin, Benjamin.  The works of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin. 1815. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=4N40AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA5#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Nicholson, William.  Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts, Volume 2. 1799. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=aAgAAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

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