Clarke's big friction machine

The machine.

In 1854 a science museum was opened in London called "Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts". It was located on Leicester Square, and operated for just two years before being converted into the Alhambra theater. The director was Edward Marmaduke Clarke, the same which developed practical electromagnetic generators years before. The building was decorated in an islamic-victorian style.
     inside                        Panopticon
The Royal Panopticon of Sciences and Arts. Note the machine in the interior view.
One of the attractions of the museum was a gigantic electrostatic machine [1][2], built by Clarke. It was a friction machine, with a 10' disk turned by steam power. The disk was rubbed by three friction pads with silk flaps after them, with the positive output taken by three double combs attached to a pear-shaped prime conductor 6' long with 4' of diameter. The negative output was also available from an insulated structure connected to the rubbers. The machine could be connected to an also enormous battery of 36 Leyden jars of unusual construction and other demonstration devices. The machine could produce 15-18" sparks. Not much probably because of the water fountain that was operated just in front of it. The machine was apparently bought by Edwin Clark and moved to other place after the closing of the Panopticon [4], and was still operating at least by 1862 [3]. I could not find more informations about its destination.

The machine and the battery of Leyden jars.

Similar smaller machines, with the conventional two rubbers and collectors, were built by Clarke too.

[1] K. G. Beauchamp, "Exhibiting electricity," IET, 1997.
[2] "The great electrical machine at the Royal Panopticon, London," The New York Journal, P. D. Orvis, Vol III, 1854. P. 155.
[3] James Wylde, "The circle of the sciences," Volume 1, Part 1, 1862.p. 171, 242.
[4] Haydn, J., "Haydn's dictionary of dates relating to all ages and nations: for universal reference", E. Moxon and Co., 1866.

Created: 29/1/2011
Last update: 30/1/2011
By Antonio Carlos M. de Queiroz
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