Michael Faraday's magnetic spark apparatus

Created in 1831 and used to show that magnetism could directly produce a spark, this apparatus provided further evidence for Faraday's view of the inter-convertibility of all forces.

  • Michael Faraday's magnetic spark apparatus
    Credit: Paul Wilkinson
  • Date

    September-October 1831
  • Place made

    Basement laboratory of the Ri

  • Alternative name

    Electromagnetic induction coil
  • People

  • Materials

    Iron, wood, copper, fabric,

  • Measurements

    H: 285mm, W: 270mm, D: 154mm

  • Key words

    Electricity, Michael Faraday, magnetism,

Description

This apparatus, consisting of a coil of insulated wire held between the poles of a magnet, was made by Michael Faraday during his research into electricity. We know how and why it was made as Faraday recorded everything he did in the laboratory in his scientific notebooks.

This research is what Faraday is best known for today but it actually wasn’t part of his official duties at the Royal Institution so he wasn’t able to work on it every day. His research was carried out alongside running the Ri, giving lectures, advising and taking on scientific research projects for individuals and other institutions. Faraday had invented the induction ring, the first transformer, at the end of July, and continued to work with similar materials and apparatus to investigate electricity and magnetism. On the 12th September he created coils of various materials and sizes and labelled them carefully A-L but it wasn’t until almost two weeks later, on 24th September, that he began to experiment with them, setting the various coils between the magnet poles and connecting them to a power source.

A week later he created a spark ‘very distinct though small’ at the end of the wires.

Where can I view this?

This object is currently on display in Faraday’s original magnetic laboratory on the lower ground floor of the Royal Institution

More images

  • Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus

    Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

  • Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus

    Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

  • Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus

    Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus - detail

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

  • MMichael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus - detail

    Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus - detail

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

  • Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus - detail

    Michael Faraday's Magnetic spark apparatus - detail

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

Related content