A rare twelve-plate Wimshurst electrostatic generator,  English, circa 1885,
Lot 6TP
A rare twelve-plate Wimshurst electrostatic generator,
English, circa 1885,
Sold for £11,875 (US$ 15,954) inc. premium

Lot Details
A rare twelve-plate Wimshurst electrostatic generator,  English, circa 1885,
A rare twelve-plate Wimshurst electrostatic generator, English, circa 1885,
the twelve glass plates rotating in paired alternate directions, in glazed and mahogany framed cabinet with winding wheel at the front and surmounted by adjustable spark gap, sold with this lot is a loan document from the Hartley University a reprint from Engineering May 1st 1885 illustration a similar machine and a note from the vendor relating to the provenance 48in (122cm) x 36in (92cm) x 33in (84cm)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    According to the vendor, this machine was made by James Wimshurst in about 1885 and was loaned to the Paris Exposition and subsequently loaned to the Hartley University Southampton. It was recently returned to the great great granddaughter of James Wimshurst and later entered into an auction where the current owner bought it and met the lady who have him this information.


    History:
    London born electrical engineer and son of a shipbuilder, James Wimshurst FRS (1832-1903) began his education at Steabonheath House, London.

    After apprenticing at the Thames Ironworks, under James Mare until 1853, Wimshurst spent the majority of his professional career working within the shipping industry as a shipwright. However, in his leisure he keenly experimented with electrical influence machines, meaning a machine consisting of a winch, which when turned amassed to static electricity, building extensive workshops at his home in Clapham.

    Through his interests, Wimshurst began to recreate existing generators, such as those by Wilhelm Holtz, August Toepler and J. Robert Voss and modifying them with his own contemporary improvements. These previous models had a tendency to switch their polarity and were in general less efficient. Wimshurst rectified this defect creating the 'Holtz- Wimshurst machine'. His machines however not only provided scientific benefits, but the sparks created were also a source of visual entertainment, providing colourful delights for Wimshurst's social gatherings alongside dancers, feasting and cards.

    Throughout the 1880's he continued to develop and modify his creations, producing his own versions of the generators, such as the 'Duplex Machine', and 'Cylindrical Machine'. His improvements to the electrostatic generator led to his device being widely referred to as the 'Wimshurst Machine'. The apparatus consisted of two circular plates rotating in opposite directions, with metallic conducting sectors on the outer surfaces. Its superiority lay in its self-charging nature and robustness under all atmospheric conditions.

    One of the largest Wimshurst Machines was built in 1885, with varnished glass disks measuring 7 feet (2.13m) in diameter and resided in the Science Museum of South Kensington, London, until 1931, when it was transferred to the Museum of Science and Industry, in Chicago, USA.

    Wimshurst's research progressed, creating a machine that generates high- tension alternation currents in 1891 as well as in 1896 when his multiple disk, eight plate influence machine lent itself to the purpose of medical science as a Roentgen ray generator for radiography and electrotherapy.

    His devotion to his work and its new purpose in the advances of medical science was recognised firstly in 1898 when he was made Fellow of the Royal Society in 1898 and later elected a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1889.

    Wimshurst is believed to have created 90 electrical influence machines throughout his lifetime, many of which were presented to scientific friends, such as the Charing Cross Hospital, the Royal Institute and the Royal Society.

    Regretfully Wimshurst did not patent any of his machines, leading to numerous devices being presented to the market in his name, which he had no authority in the regulation of design or construction of those which he felt were inferior to his own machines.
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