Museum of Electricity and Magnetism
This museum is a work in progress. We are adding to it over time, so check back again soon for new entries.
Apple II Plus – 1979
Long before the iPhone, the iPod or even the Mac, there was the Apple.
Arc lamp – 1876
Fire lighted the night for many centuries. Then came Sir Humphry Davy and the birth of the arc lamp, an invention built upon in the years that followed by many.
Audion – 1906
Two years after Englishman John Ambrose Fleming invented a two-electrode vacuum tube, American inventor Lee De Forest one-upped him by developing a tube with three electrodes.
Bell telephone – 1876
Acoustics, variable resistance and allegations of foul play contribute to the exciting story of the invention of the telephone.
Bubble chamber – 1952
To understand a bubble chamber, picture the long, white streak an airplane leaves in its wake. That's water vapor produced by condensation from the plane's hot exhaust. Until the water particles evaporate, you can follow the streak to track where the plane is flying.
Coaxial cable – 1929
As more and more American households acquired telephones, the pressure was on to create a better cable to accommodate the increasing demand. Engineers Lloyd Espenschied and Herman Affel answered the call.
Crookes tube – 1870
English chemist Sir William Crookes (1832 – 1919) invented the Crookes tube to study gases, which fascinated him. His work also paved the way for the revolutionary discovery of the electron and the invention of X-ray machines.
Cyclotron – 1931
A cyclotron is a machine that allows scientists to shoot particle beams at other particle beams. The result of doing this is a spectacular smash up – but that's not why scientists do it.
Davenport motor – 1834
Odd though it seems today, when Thomas Davenport was selling one of the first electric motors way back in the 1830s, nobody was buying.
Davy electrolysis – 1806
Reaping the benefits of the work of Alessandro Volta, William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle, English scientist Humphry Davy used electrolysis to separate a number of compounds into their basic components.
Duchenne machine – 1850
French physician Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne invented a device that electrically stimulates muscles. The apparatus gave him new insight into neuromuscular disorders, earned him the epitaph of "father of electrotherapeutics," and entertained the courts of Europe.
Early Chinese compass – 400 BC
The first compass was used not to point people in the right direction literally, but figuratively.
Edison battery – 1903
Although it never quite measured up to expectations, the Edison battery paved the way for the modern alkaline battery.
Electric meter – 1872
The invention of the light bulb quickly created the need to track people's electricity usage. In 1872, Samuel Gardiner built the first simple power meter: a lamp with an attached clock that recorded the time the light was on.
Electric range – 1892
From the Stone Age to today, the search is constantly underway for better, more efficient ways to cook food. Reflecting many of the advances in science and technology, the electric range has become a popular choice for homes and businesses.
Electrocardiograph – 1903
If TV medical dramas have taught us anything, it's how to recognize the heart's characteristic peaks and valleys crawling across monitors in emergency rooms. These images represent the electrical activity of the beating heart as recorded by an electrocardiograph, a machine that revolutionized diagnostic cardiology and helped garner a Nobel Prize.
Electrophorus – 1764
A very primitive capacitor, this early device allowed scientists to give discs of metal specific charge.
Electrostatic generator – 1706
Otto von Guericke's electrostatic machine evolved into increasingly improved instruments in the hands of later scientists. In the early 1700s, an Englishman named Francis Hauksbee designed his own electrostatic generator, a feat stemming from his studies of mercury.
Faraday motor – 1821
Few inventions have shaped technology as much as the electric motor, but the very first version — the Faraday motor — didn't look anything like the modern motor.
Fluorescent lamps – 1934
Compared to incandescent lamps, fluorescent lamps last longer, require less energy and produce less heat, advantages resulting from the different way in which they generate light.
Gauss-Weber telegraph – 1833
Several years before the telegraph created by American inventor Samuel Morse revolutionized communications, two German scientists built their own functional telegraph.
Geiger counter – 1908
Counting alpha particles was tedious and time-consuming work, until Hans Geiger came up with a device that did the job automatically.
Gold leaf electropscope – 1787
For centuries, the electroscope was one of the most popular instruments used by scientists to study electricity. Abraham Bennet first described this version in 1787.
Gramme dynamo – 1871
Zenobe Theophile Gramme (1826 – 1901) invented the first industrial generator, or dynamo. A deceptively simple-looking machine, it consisted of 30 coils wrapped around a spinning ring of iron.
Hydroelectric power station – 1882
The first hydroelectric power plant, known as the Vulcan Street Plant, was powered by the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Iconoscope – 1923
American inventor Vladimir Zworykin, the “father of television," conceived two components key to that invention: the iconoscope and the kinescope.
Kettle – 1891
Found in more homes than any other appliance, the kettle has steadily evolved from an ancient tool to an important modern convenience.
Leclanché cell – 1866
With only minor changes to its original 1866 design, the Leclanché cell evolved into modern alkaline batteries and the most popular household battery to date.
Leyden jars – 1745
Because they could store significant amounts of charge, Leyden jars allowed scientists to experiment with electricity in a way never before possible.
Lodestone – 600 BC
The history of electricity and magnetism starts with this special mineral possessing amazing, and still mysterious, properties.
Maglev trains – 1984
The railroad industry began in the frontier days, magnetic levitation has moved it squarely into the space age.
Magnetic core memory – 1949
At the dawn of the computer age, magnetic core memory helped make data storage possible, and showed surprising staying power in a field where components are constantly being replaced by new and improved products.
Magneto – 1832
The magneto helped fire up the first generation of automobiles.
Magnetometer – 1832
The Earth, the moon, the stars and just about everything in between has a magnetic field, and scientists use magnetometers when they need to know the strength of those fields.
Magnetron – 1920
Although they have applications at the highest levels of scientific research, magnetron tubes are used every day by non-scientists who just want to heat their food in a hurry.
Marconi radio – 1897
A number of distinguished scientists had a hand in the discovery of "wireless telegraphy," but it was the work done by Guglielmo Marconi that is credited with providing the basis of radio as we know it today.
Morse telegraph – 1844
The man most commonly associated with the telegraph, Samuel Morse, did not invent the communications tool. But he developed it, commercialized it and invented the famous code for it that bears his name.
Ørsted's compass – 1820
Compasses had been steering people in the right direction for many centuries when, in the year 1820, one particular compass made a very different sort of revelation to an unsuspecting Danish science professor.
Ørsted satellite – 1999
Named in honor of Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted, Denmark’s first satellite has been observing and mapping the magnetic field of the Earth.
Oscilloscope – 1897
From the auto shop to the doctor's office, the oscilloscope is an important diagnostic tool.
Pacemaker – 1960
Many heads, hands and hearts contributed to the development of this lifesaving device.
Planté battery – 1859
French physicist Gaston Planté invented the first rechargeable battery, leaving an enduring legacy in battery history. To see it, just pop the hood of your car.
Schweigger multiplier – 1820
Spurred by Hans Christian Ørsted's discovery of a relationship between electricity and magnetism, German chemist Julian Schweigger immediately began tinkering and soon came up with a very early galvanometer known as the Schweigger multiplier.
Smoothing iron – 1882
Although not as celebrated as many other scientific inventions, the smoothing iron has its own rich history of development stretching all the way from 400 B.C. to the present.
Stanley transformer – 1886
Applying discoveries Michael Faraday had made a few decades earlier, William Stanley designed the first commercial transformer for Westinghouse in 1886.
Sulfur globe – 1660
In the 17th century, German scientist Otto von Guericke built and carried out experiments with a sulfur globe that produced static electricity.
Steam condensing engine – 1769
Few inventions have affected human history as much as the steam engine. Without it, there would have been no locomotives, no steamers and no Industrial Revolution.
Tesla coil– 1891
By the late 1800s, electricity had long been discovered and was no longer considered a novelty. The science of how to store, enhance, or transmit electrical current was just beginning to evolve, and eccentric scientist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was on the cutting edge of that research.
Torsion balance – 1785
Charles-Augustin de Coulomb didn't invent the torsion balance, but he was the first to discover it could be used to measure electrical charge – the first device capable of such a feat.
Transatlantic telegraph cable – 1858
The main figure behind the first transatlantic telegraph knew very little about the science or engineering behind it, but was convinced that with it a fortune could be made.
Voltaic pile – 1800
For thousands of years, electricity was an ephemeral phenomenon – there one second and gone the next. The voltaic pile changed that forever.
Wheatstone bridge – 1843
This device for measuring resistance in a circuit, still widely used today, was "discovered" in 1843, but had been invented a decade earlier. The inventor's name was not Wheatstone.
Wimshurst machine – 1880
In the modern world, virtually everyone is familiar with electricity as an accessible, essential form of energy. In electricity's earlier days, scientists used the buildup and release of static electricity.
Zeeman effect – 1896
Most of us have seen the rainbow-hued breakdown of the composition of light. Light is of course a form of energy. A magnetic field changes the behavior of light — a phenomenon known as the Zeeman effect.
Contributors: Mike Brand, Shannon Neaves, Emily Smith (writers); Kristen Eliza Coyne, Susan Ray (editors); Adam Rainey (web design); Jesse Birch, Eric Hooper, Kevin John, Richard Ludlow, Adam Rainey (graphic artists).