Kelvin graded galvanometer

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made in Glasgow

Postcard of Kelvin graded galvanometer.
© National Museums Scotland

Kelvin graded galvanometer

Before 1880, accurate measurement for less than 400 volts difference of potential was difficult and time consuming. After this time, the rapid development of electric lighting and electrical engineering led to a demand for more convenient instruments for ordinary or domestic use, including the development of the potential galvanometer. The current galvanometer has an insulated copper coil of a resistance of about .0001 ohm, and currents of less than 100 amps could be measured.

This current type graded galvanometer is marked 'James White, Glasgow No. 175'. The case containing the magnet and pointer is adjustable along the axis of the current coil, which is mounted at one end of the horizontal wooden base.

James White (1824-87) set up in business on his own account in 1850. As early as 1854, he was supplying class demonstration pieces to William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, who was professor of natural philosophy (physics) at Glasgow University. White began regularly supplying and mending apparatus for Thomson in 1858, and thus began an extraordinary relationship. Kelvin's genius for invention, which lay in the empirical solution of problems of applied physics, was realised by White, who was capable of executing his ideas and designs into instruments.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-019-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.1959.37
Date: Around 1880
c. 1890
Material: Wood base
Dimensions: 15.50" x 6.50" x 4.25" H
What: Galvanometer, graded, Kelvin
Subject: 8. ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING, Installation (Departmental Classification)
22. PHYSICS, Magnetism and Electricity (Departmental Classification)
Who: James White, Glasgow (Maker)
Kelvin (Eponym)
Where: Scotland, Lanarkshire, Glasgow
Description: Kelvin graded galvanometer, potential type, by James White, with a case containing a magnet and pointer adjustable in the axis of current coil mounted at one end of a horizontal wooden base
  • For Kelvin and James White, see Clarke, T.N., A.D. Morrison-Low and A.D.C. Simpson. Brass & Glass: Scientific Instrument Making Workshops in Scotland. Edinburgh, 1989, pp 252 - 275. 
  • Green, George and John T. Lloyd. Kelvin's Instruments and the Kelvin Museum. Glasgow, 1970, pp 32-33. 
  • Maclean, Magnus. Lord Kelvin's Patents. Philosophical Society of Glasgow (1897-98), pp 21-25. 
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