Battery, part of electrical demonstration apparatus

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made in England

Postcard of Battery, part of electrical demonstration apparatus.
© National Museums Scotland

Battery, part of electrical demonstration apparatus

This battery, formed by six Leiden jars, stored static electrical charge until required. The Leiden jar may (or may not) have been invented in Leiden in the Netherlands at some point during the eighteenth century. Sometimes it is spelled 'Leyden' jar. This example is unsigned, but was probably made in England.

A battery consists of a number of Leiden jars - in this instance, six - contained in a wooden box which is lined with tinfoil to ensure a good condition between their outer coatings, while their inner coatings are connected by brass rods. They are charged by connecting the inner coatings of tinfoil with the conductor of a friction machine.

The most common Leiden jar arrangement had been developed by the early 1760s and remained in use until the early 20th century. The wide-necked, purpose-made clear glass jars were coated with tinfoil inside and out. A thick, central brass discharging rod was set into a turned, tight-fitting mahogany lid, terminating in a brass chain making contact with the inner tinfoil coating.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-004-726-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1902.29.31
Date: Late 19th century
What: Battery / Leyden jar / tray
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Magnetism and Electricity (Departmental Classification)
8. ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING, Static (Departmental Classification)
Where: England
Holland, Leyden
Description: Battery of six Leyden jars in a tray, unsigned, English, late 19th century
  • A.P. Deschanel, Elementary Treatise on Natural Philosophy. London, 1872, pp 580-2. 
  • See W.D. Hackmann, Electricity from Glass: the History of the Frictional Electrical Machine 1600-1850. Alphen aan den Rijn, 1978, esp. ch. 5 'The Leyden Jar and its Development pp 90-103. 
  • W.J. Laven and J.G. van Cittert-Eymers, Descriptive Catalogue of Electrical Instruments in the Utrecht University Museum. Utrecht, 1967, esp. pp 22-25. 
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