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Stephen Gray Lectures at Charterhouse

Stephen Gray Lectures at Charterhouse STEM World History Legends and Legendary People Famous Historical Events Education

Stephen Gray lectures about his findings, at London’s Charterhouse, after conducting experiments with static electricity.  

The Sorbonne, which provides this 1874 image, tells us more about it (and Gray’s efforts to deduce important concepts from his experiments):

From all these experiments, it became clear that electrification is a surface effect; that the electric "virtue" or "fluid" would move freely along some materials - named, by Desaguliers [Jean Desaguliers, Gray’s friend] "non-electrics" or "conductors" - from one body to another. The earth, the human body, metals, moisture are immediately recognized as conductors.

Materials which do not conduct electricity came to be called nonconductors or insulators. A metal rod or sphere when held in the hand and rubbed with fur shows no sign of electrification, but when mounted on a nonconductor, the metal is readily electrified. The electrical charge is no longer conducted away to be shared with the huge object which is the earth.

When this was realized, it was found that practically any material can be electrified by friction.

Water is found to be a conductor. It renders insulators conducting when the surfaces are wet or moist...

In short ... Gray’s experiments led him to discover that some items (like metal) cannot hold an electrical charge.  Rather than holding the charge, the metal allows the charge to flow through it.  Such items are electrical-charge conductors.

Conversely, Gray also learned that other items (like human hair, glass jars and silk rope), can hold an electrical charge.  Objects which can hold an electrical charge are called insulators.  


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy the Sorbonne.

 

 

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