Static Electricity

Von Guericke soon found that it was tiresome and boring to rub a piece of amber or glass with a cloth. And after a great deal of work he was able to produce only a small charge of electricity. So he experimented and experimented and soon developed a machine that provided him with a charge far more powerful which was called static electricity, which is still or stationery.

He took some sulphur and moulded it into a ball about the size of a basketball. Next he bored a hole through the centre and struck a metal rod in it. Then he attached the rod to handle in such a manner that when the handle was cranked, the ball of sulphur would rotate with the rod. Von Guericke turned the handle faster and faster, making the ball spin faster and faster. While the sulphur ball was spinning, he held his gloved hand against it. Instantly the ball became heavily charged with electricity. Calling his sulphur ball contraption an electrostatic machine, Von Guericke found that paper, feathers, bits of wood, thin sheets of metal and many other things were attracted to the sulphur.

The machine was not the only important discovery Von Guericke made in the field of electricity. He also discovered that a charge of electricity could be transferred from one object to another. He discovered this by observing that a strip of metal that came in contact with the charged sulphur ball would in turn became charged itself. The metal too could attract something else. Von Guericke tried this with object after object until he was able to prove to himself and to the world of science that an electric charge could be transferred. This too was an important milestone in the history of electricity.

Years passed, Von Guericke died, leaving behind him his great contribution, the electrostatic machine. It was there to provide static electricity for those who continued to experiment and almost half a century later a startling and important discovery was made by a Scientist Stephen Gray in England. For months he had been trying to send an electric charge over a long piece of thread. In theory, he knew it should work, but each time he tried it, something had gone wrong. On one night, he strung the thread back and forth across the room with the help of another man, attaching the thread to the walls at each turn. By the time he had finished, the room was a maze of crisscrossing thread. Now Gray took out an ivory ball and attached to one end of the thread. Finally, to the other end, he tied a glass rod. He asked another person to hold feather near the ivory ball and Gray took a piece of soft cloth and started to rub the glass rod. Faster and faster he rubbed, until he heard another man shout, “It works. The feather is sticking to the ball”. For the first time in known history a charge of electricity had been carried or conducted from one point to another.

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