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This electrostatic device was invented between 1880-1883 by British inventor James Wimshurst. It was used for generating high voltages, the machines were frequently used to power X Ray tubes.

The Wimshurst Machine belonged to a class of generators called influence machines, they separated electric charges through electrostatic induction or influence.

The Wimshurst Machine is self-starting, meaning it doesn’t need external electrical energy, it does however, need mechanical power and by turning the handle very quickly the two glass disks and their metal sectors rotate in opposite directions passing the crossed metal neutraliser bars and their brushes.

An imbalance of charges is induced, amplified and collected by two pairs of metal combs with points placed near the surfaces of each disk, this creates a spark, and the accumulated energy can be collected and stored in the two “Leyden Jars”

Bruce Hammond Collection

Your comments:

  • Our school Physics lab had one and when my son was there he used to fit polystyrene ceiling tiles to his shoes and charge himself up to many thousands of volts before going round 'zapping' the other kids. A great teaser when he should have been taking science more seriously like I did. Nevertheless, he got an MSc, so he must have worked between practical jokes.
    .......... David Mills, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, North Wales, UK, 28th of November 2009

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