Stephen Gray and His Experiments

Stephen Gray and His Experiments STEM World History Education Nonfiction Works

This image illustrates Stephen Gray's "flying boy" experiment.  It is the frontispiece to 1743's Novi profectus in historia electricitatis, post obitum auctoris, by Christian August Hausen.

The "flying" child is suspended, in mid-air, by cords of silk which serve as insulators.  The eight-year-old receives the electrical charge when Gray holds his feet against a rotating sulphur ball.

Once the boy is "charged," lightweight objects (such as gold metal leaf and feathers) are attracted to his hands.  When he is discharged, sparks fly from his fingers.

On the left side of the illustration we see a small boy standing on what appears to be an insulating drum.  That drum will help him to avoid getting a shock when he touches the flying boy.

The adult male, however, does not have anything like the insulating drum to protect him.  Therefore, when he touches the flying boy, sparks will fly.

The sparks emanate from an electrical current which leaps between the man's fingers, and those of the boy, then flows through the man's body to the ground.

Stephen Gray conducted this experiment in 1730, at Charterhouse in London.  He received the Royal Society's first Copley Medal for his efforts.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 23, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Nov 26, 2016

Media Credits

Image online via Google Books.




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