John Canton, an English savant, born at Stroud, Gloucestershire, July 31, 1718, died March, 22, 1772. In March, 1737, he went to London, where he engaged as an assistant in the school in Spital square, and after a few years succeeded to the mastership. In 1745 the discovery of the Leyden vial turned his attention to the subject of electricity, in which he made several valuable discoveries, almost simultaneously with Franklin. He was the first in England to verify Franklin's hypothesis of the identity of dynamic electricity and lightning (July, 1752). In March, 1750, he submitted a paper to the royal society on the method devised by himself of constructing artificial magnets, which procured him an election to a membership of the society, and an award of a gold medal. Papers on the possible elevation of rockets, the phenomena of shooting stars, the electrical properties of the tourmaline, the variation of the needle, with appended observations for one year, and the compressibility of water with details of experiments, followed each other in quick succession from 1753 to 1762, and brought him in 1765 a second medal from the royal society. The last paper which he submitted to the society was to prove that the luminousness of the sea arises from the putrefaction of its animal substances.
His papers are in the "Philosophical Transactions," and in accounts of new experiments in Priestley's histories of electrical and optical discoveries.