- Following the work of Luigi Galvani in the early 1790s, several others scientists experimented with galvanic electricity and developed ever more powerful batteries. Allesandro Volta introduced the electric pile. William Cruickshank designed a trough battery that was essentially a Voltaic pile turned on its side. Humphry Davy used large batteries to isolate new elements. James Woodhouse, an American chemist who went to England and returned home with a Cruickshank battery, shared his enthusiasm for galvanic work with Robert Hare (1781–1858), his student at the University of Pennsylvania.
- As professor of chemistry in the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, Hare developed what was widely regarded as the best equipped lecture room in the world, and demonstration experiments suitable for very large classes. His galvanic instrument, introduced in 1817, consisted of 20 copper plates that connected with one another, 20 zinc plates that connected with one another, and a wooden box filled with a weak acid. It generated heat as well as electricity, and so Hare called it a calorimotor.
- The calorimotor that Hare gave the Smithsonian in 1848 was destroyed in the Institution’s fire of 1865. The replica shown here was made in anticipation of the opening of the National Museum of History and Technology in 1964.
- Ref: Robert Hare, A New Theory of Galvanism supported by some Experiments and Observations made by means of the Calorimotor (Philadelphia, 1819).
- Robert Hare, “A New Theory of Galvanism, supported by some Experiments and Observations made by means of the Calorimotor,” American Journal of Science 1 (1819): 413-426, and plate.
- “Dr. Hare’s Calorimotor,” in Benjamin Pike, Jr., Illustrated Descriptive Catalogue of Optical, Mathematical, and Philosophical Instruments (New York, 1856), vol. 1, pp. 328-330.
- Currently not on view
- Object Name
- calorimotor (replica)
- date made
- early 1960s
- Hare, Robert
- Associated Place
- United States: New Jersey
- Physical Description
- wood (overall material)
- copper (overall material)
- steel (overall material)
- overall: 46 in x 22 in x 25 in; 116.84 cm x 55.88 cm x 63.5 cm
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.