Large disc static electrical machine

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Probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Large disc static electrical machine.
© National Museums Scotland

Large disc static electrical machine

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. After his death, the business was carried on by his brothers, and became laboratory supplier to various educational institutions, including the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews.

In this form of the electrostatic generator, known as Winter's electrical generator, a pair of friction pad cushions excite each side of the glass plate, the charge being collected by a pair of brass circular combs. The primary conductor or charge collector has only a small charge capacity but it is fitted with a discharging rod to allow the static electricity to be passed for storage to a Leyden jar.

The substitution of a glass plate for the cylinder of the frictional electrical machine was made independently in 1768 by Dr John Ingenhousz of Vienna and by Jesse Ramsden, the London instrument maker. This was a common form of electrical apparatus, used in the classroom demonstration until the second half of the 19th century.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-005-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.1902.29.6
Date: 1828
Around 1880
What: Electrical machine, disc static
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Magnetism and Electricity (Departmental Classification)
8. ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING, Static (Departmental Classification)
Who: K.T. Kemp, Edinburgh (Maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Disc static electrical machine on a four-legged stool, by K.T. Kemp, Edinburgh, 1828
  • Hackmann, W.D. Electricity from Glass; the history of the Frictional Electrical machine 1600-1850. Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands, 1978, pp 143-171. 
  • 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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