Drawing of Globe-type Electrostatic Machine

Description (Brief)
People from ancient times knew that rubbing certain materials and then touching something caused a spark. Studying what is called electrostatics laid the groundwork for understanding electricity and magnetism. Natural philosophers, scientists, and instrument makers created many ingenious devices to generate electrostatic charges starting in the 1600s. These machines varied in size and technique but all involved rotary motion to generate a charge, and a means of transferring the charge to a storage device for use.
This original ink drawing of an electrostatic machine and components dates from about 1750. Signed "H: Carrington Fecit", the caption reads as follows: "A the Body of the Machine B the Globe C the Cufhion D the Spring E the Handle / F the Screw that fastens the whole Machine to the Table G the Slider and Screws that moves the Gun Barrell Nearer or Further / from the Globe HH the Supporters of the Gun Barrell II Crooked pieces that Sufpends Gun Barrell KK Silk Srings upon which / the Gun Barrell is Sufpended L Gun Barrell or Conductor M the Bells Supporter & Ball to Equilibrition that moves by the Actract- / -tion of the finger or other Object O Bottle & Chain by w:ch the Shock is Given P the Ring Q the Plate R the Small Globe S Wire fixd to the / Ring & Conductor or Gun Barrells T the Hanging Plate V the Stand U the Small Images of thin paper Cut out at pleafure / WWW the feather & Wire".
Early electrostatic machines generated a charge by spinning a globe against a pad. The charge could then be used directly in experiments or transferred from the globe to a Leyden jar. The machine depicted in the drawing is the same type as a machine in the collection--catalog #1983.0190.01.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1750
Physical Description
flax paper (overall material)
overall: 19.2 cm x 31 cm x .01 mm; 7 9/16 in x 12 3/16 in x in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Science & Mathematics
Electrostatic Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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