Symmer, a Fellow of the Royal Society, published a four-part treatise in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society titled "New Experiments and Observations concerning Electricity". His paper suggested that electricity was not a single force, as was believed by, for example Benjamin Franklin and Giambatista Beccaria, but was instead two opposing forces arising from two separate liquids. Summer reported his observations on the static electricity resulting from repeatedly removing his woollen and silk stockings, a habit which led to him being nicknamed "The Barefoot Philosopher".
Although his theory was paid little attention in Britain, his views received more notice abroad.
Scholars such as Jean-Antoine Nollet, Franz Aepinus, Johan Wilcke, Brugmans Anton or Torbern Bergman were supporters of the his "two-fluid" theory, considering him its originator. However, this idea was a revival of that of Charles du Fay, who in 1733 considered that electricity consisted of "glass electricity" (électricité vitreuse) and "resin electricity" (électricité résineuse).
Modern historians of science are not a little kinder to his views as the country people of his time. The reasons are obvious, since most reports of electricity in the 18th Century by Joseph Priestley"s The History and Present State of Electricity (1767) were derived, although the treated fairly dualistic position, on the other hand, no opportunity to mock Symmers omitted.
However, wearing particular Mathurin Jacques Brisson, by his inaccurate French translation of Priestley in "History" and contained the discrepancy between the mocking treatment Symmers in the English original and its milder presentation in French Histoire de l"Electricité to observe the theory Symmers.
The historian of science I. Bernard Cohen, one of the most respected contemporary connoisseurs Franklin said, later in his book, Franklin and Newton: An Inquiry into Speculative Newtonian Experimental Science and Franklin"s Work in Electricity as an Example thereof (1956) lack of understanding about the fact that Symmers restoration experiments in general acclaim. J. L. Heilbron: Robert Symmer and the Two Electricities, in: ISIS, 1976, South. 7 ff. J. L. Heilbron: Elements of early modern physics, 1982,, South. 208, 270, 277
Histoire de l’électricité et de la physique
New Experiments and Observations concerning Electricity (Wikimedia Commons).