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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/258

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

for a certain time at least, and consequently accumulatcd so as to be observable; whereas the opposite electrification flowing into the operator's hand continuously escaped to earth without giving any sign of its presence. Had the operator stood upon an insulating support, the electrification would have accumulated on his body as well as upon the sulphur. Guericke made the discovery that a light body, having been once attracted to an electrified surface, was almost immediately repelled from it, and could not be again attracted without having its imparted electrification removed by contact with an uncharged surface.

Sir Isaac Newton, about 1675, made an interesting application of a principle allied to this. He used a hollow, drum-shaped contrivance with glass ends and a very short axis, into which he put a number of fragments of paper. On briskly rubbing the outside of the glass with a piece of silk the paper was caused to "leap from one part of the glass to another and twirl about in the air." This was repeated in 1676 before the Royal Society, to the great edification of that learned body.

Newton made a considerable improvement in the electrical machine of Guericke by the substitution of a hollow globe of glass for Guericke's sulphur one. What is chiefly interesting about the improvement is the fact that Guericke's sulphur globe, of comparative weight and cumbrousness, was made by casting melted sulphur into a glass globe and then breaking off the glass. Guericke observed in the dark a peculiar luminosity of conducting surfaces when well charged by means of his machine; he compared it to the phosphorescent light observed when lump sugar is broken in the dark. It was what is now known as the brush-discharge effect.

In 1705 Francis Hawksbee discovered the peculiar phenomenon which he termed the mercurial phosphorus. It was produced by causing a stream of well-dried mercury to fall through an exhausted glass receiver. The friction of the particles of mercury against the jet piece and the glass caused an electrification which evinced itself in a phosphorescent glow. The receiver, indeed, had not to be by any means thoroughly exhausted, the phenomenon occurring at an air pressure up to about fourteen inches of the barometer.

The crackling noise and the spark accompanying electrical discharge suggested about this time the analogy of those miniature disturbances to thunder and lightning, but the identity of the two was not fully established until later.

Up to this time the fact that certain substances were capable of conducting electricity was not known, but in 1729 Stephen Gray, F. R. S., an enthusiastic investigator, made the discovery, and at the same time the cognate one that a large class of materials are non-