Model of human head

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Postcard of Model of human head.
© National Museums Scotland

Model of human head

This small papier-mache model of a human head with long hair was used in electrical experiments by the gentleman scientist William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77), the inventor of positive-negative photography. It dates from around 1850.

The model has been painted to look more realistic. It is on a brass pillar with a wooden base. The hair, when charged, would stand on end.

This accessory was probably sold with the small electrical plate machine, which would have been used to charge the hair of this device. Both may have been retailed by Watkins & Hill of London, from whom Talbot bought other electrical apparatus.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-004-734-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1936.88
Date: Around 1850
c. 1850
Material: Hair
Dimensions: 6.50" H
What: Human head / model / electrical experiment
Subject: 8. ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING, Static (Departmental Classification)
21. PHOTOGRAPHY (Departmental Classification)
22. PHYSICS, Magnetism and Electricity (Departmental Classification)
Who: Fox Talbot (Owner)
Where: England
Description: Small model of a human head with long hair for electrical experiments, used by Fox Talbot, unsigned, c. 1850
  • For this sort of apparatus, see Hackmann, W. D., Electricity from Glass: the History of the Frictional Electrical Machine 1600-1850. Alphen aan den Rijn, 1978. 
  • For Watkins & Hill, see Clifton, Gloria, Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851. London, 1995, p 291 
  • For William Henry Fox Talbot, see Arnold, H.J.P., William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and man of Science. London, 1977. 
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