Experimental galvanic battery, trough shape

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made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Experimental galvanic battery, trough shape.
© National Museums Scotland

Experimental galvanic battery, trough shape

Kenneth Treasurer Kemp (1805-42) was a private lecturer in practical chemistry in Edinburgh during the late 1820s. He had a research interest in electricity, and started to supply instruments and apparatus of his own invention to the public. This electrochemical battery was the first to use zinc amalgam (zinc alloyed with mercury).

This galvanic battery is in the form of a trough, and was mainly composed of liquids (which are no longer present). The wooden troughs divided into nine equal part with strips of glass, subdivided into calls, each cell being waxed within. Alternate cells are filled with mercury, and zinc and mercury amalgam. Below the trough are syphons of glass, which connect adjoining cells and are filled with mercury. Water and acid are then poured over the top, and the entire tough forms a liquid battery.

Kemp first appeared in the street directories in 1829, as a lecturer, when he was aged 24, but his teaching career had evidently begun much earlier. He was the son of a merchant tailor and hatter, and was almost entirely self-taught. This was at a time when classes in practical chemistry were proving particularly popular, as not only were they not taught within the University, but it was a necessary part of the examinations of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-004-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1856.75 A 2
Date: 1828
Material: Glass syphon connections containing zinc amalgams
What: Apparatus, galvanic / battery, horizontal
Subject: 8. ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING, Galvanic (Departmental Classification)
22. PHYSICS, Magnetism and Electricity (Departmental Classification)
Who: Kenneth T. Kemp, Edinburgh (Inventor)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Horizontal galvanic battery invented by Kenneth T. Kemp, Edinburgh, 1828
  • Kemp, K.T. Description of a new kind of galvanic pile, and also of another galvanic apparatus in the form of a trough. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 6 (1828), pp 70-77. 
  • Morrison-Low, A.D. Kemp & Co., Laboratory Suppliers. In: J.T. Stock and M.V. Orna (eds.). The History and Preservation of Chemical Instrumentation, Dordrecht, 1986, pp 163-186. 
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