Capillary Electrometer

Capillary Electrometer

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
A capillary electrometer measures small differences in electric potential in terms of changes in surface tension between mercury and an electrolytic solution in a capillary tube. This example represents the design introduced by Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1982), a University of Leipzig professor who won the 1909 Nobel prize in Chemistry. The “FRITZ KOHLER / LEIPZIG” and “GERMANY” inscription is that of the Universitäts-Mechaniker at Leipzig. “DRGM” means that the design was registered within Germany. Kőhler was in business by 1897, and he showed an instrument of this sort at the International Exhibition held in St. Louis in 1904.
Ostwald’s design was a modification of the form that Gabriel Lippmann (1845-1921) had introduced in his 1873 PhD dissertation. A Jewish scientist from Luxembourg who spent most of his life in Paris, Lipmann won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physics for his method of reproducing colors photographically.
Ref: John T. Stock, “Gabriel Lippman and the Capillary Electrometer,” Bulletin of the History of Chemistry 29 (2004): 16-20.
Fritz Kőhler, Physico=Photo=Chemische Apparate (Leipzig, 1909), p. 25.
German Empire, Special Catalogue of the Hygiene Exhibition (Berlin, 1904), p. 231.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Capillary Electrometer
Associated Place
United States: New Jersey
microscope: 10.8 cm x 2.5 cm; 4 1/4 in x in
each tube: 15 cm; 5 7/8 in
mirror: 3.5 cm; x 1 3/8 in
overall: 34.3 cm x 16 cm x 20.2 cm; 13 1/2 in x 6 5/16 in x 7 15/16 in
overall: 18 in x 10 1/2 in; 45.72 cm x 26.67 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Rutgers University Department of Physics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

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.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object