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Electrical demonstration apparatus

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made in England

Postcard of Electrical demonstration apparatus.
© National Museums Scotland

Electrical demonstration apparatus

This electrical demonstration apparatus was invented in England in the late 19th century by James Wimshurst. The apparatus was the most powerful machine of the 19th century for generating static electricity. This example is unsigned.

The apparatus consists of two contra-rotating glass discs, each carrying narrow strips of tinfoil. As opposing strips move past each other, they charge each other with static electricity by the process of electrostatic induction. The charge is collected in Leiden jars at each side, which could be put together to form a battery.

The Wimshurst machine was the most powerful 19th-century generator of static electricity. In production by 1880, it proved very popular in schools and colleges, and was also used for medical purposes.

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Online ID: 000-190-002-327-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1975.196
Date: c. 1890
Late 19th century
Dimensions: 450 x 360 x 480
What: Electrical machine
Who: Wimshurst (Eponym)
Where: England
Description: Wimshurst electrical machine, unsigned, English, c. 1890
  • Turner, G. L'E., Nineteenth Century Scientific Instruments. London: 1983, p 192 
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