1709 – Glowing discovery


1709 – Glowing discovery – Francis Hauksbee Francis Hauksbee, also known as Francis Hauksbee the elder, experimented with mercury after hearding of the account that the french astronomer Jean Picard in 1675 had observered a faint glow while caring a mecury barometer.

He discovered that mercery in a glass cantainer exposed to static electricitity can glow bright enough to read by.   This is called electroluminescence.

Francis Hauksbee make a modified static electric generator like Otto von Guericke’s, which had mercury in the glass ball with a partial vacuum.  When it was spun and a hand placed on it, it gave off light.

Experiment – Glowing discovery

1660 – Static electric generator

1660 – Static electric generator – Otto von Guericke

Otto von Guericke invented the first static electric generator. It was a sulfur ball on a rod that can be hand cranked and rubbed with a object to generate static electricity. He heard crackling and felt the hairs sand on end. Soon other in Europe were copying it and making improvements.

Experiment – Static Electric generator

1629 – Repulsion of like charges

1629 – Repulsion of like charges – Niccolò Cabeo

Niccolò Cabeo May have been the first to notice that object with the same charged are repelled from each other.  He wrote a book on magnetic philosophy (“Philosophia magnetica”).  Where he descibe metal filing being attracted to a charged object, but once they touched the charged object they are repelled by it.

Experiment – Repulsion

1600 – Versorium Electroscope

1600 – Versorium Electroscope – William Gilbert

In 1600 William Gilbert, the queen physician, published a book called De Magnete (Latin for “On the Magnet”) . It became the standard for magnetism and electricity. He developed a tool to detect electric charges (electroscope), which he called a versorium. It consisted of a needle on a pivot. He was also to use the term, in Latin, for electric force. He was also the first to realize that the earth was a giant magnet.

Experiment – Versorium

4 BC – The Compass – China

Chinese South Pointing Device

In the Chinese book “Book of the Devil Valley Master” (鬼谷子) is mentioned a “south pointing device” or compass. It was used at the time for fortune telling1.

Magnetized needle compass

The first reference to using a magnetized need a magnetized needle happens around around 1088, in the Dream Pool Essays by Shen Kuo. It isn’t until 1119 that the use of a magnetized needle compass was used for navigational purposes in Zhu Yu‘s book Pingzhou Table Talks (萍洲可談).

A magnetized needle compass was first mentioned in western literature written about 1180 by Alexander Neckam in De Utensilibus (On Instruments).

Experiment – make a compass

1748 – early electroscope

1748 – Jean-Antoine Nollet – Early electroscope

In 1748 Jean-Antoine Nollet built an early electroscope, an electrometer comprised of a suspended pith ball that moves in response to the electrostatic attraction and repulsion of a charged body.

It was a metal box with  isolated wire hung down and a piece of metal foil hanging down.  With a special lense  they amount of movement of the foil could be measured.


Experiment – Early electroscope