Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 17th Century

By Michael Windelspecht | Go to book overview

E

Electricity (1663–1672): As one of the more visible forces of nature, electricity has historically been of interest to scientists. However, at the start of the 17th century little was known of the nature of electrical forces. What was known focused primarily on the study of static electricity. Since static electricity typically results in the generation of a minor attractive force, such as the bending of hair toward a charged comb, electricity and magnetism were often thought of as being the same. The word “electricity” is derived from the Greek word elektron meaning amber. When rubbed, amber has the ability to attract small objects such as leaves in what appeared to be the same manner as a magnet.

The first scientist to make the distinction between magnetic and electrical attractive forces was the English physician William Gilbert. Gilbert is regarded as one of the earliest supporters of the scientific method. His belief that scientific findings must be supported by experimentation had a strong influence on other 17th-century scientists. The experimental science of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, to name a few, were all guided by Gilbert’s work. In the early decades of the 17th century magnetism was thought to be the unifying force in the universe. The movement of the planets and action of falling objects were all the result of magnetism. While Gilbert also supported this idea, he recognized that magnetism was primarily a property of lodestone, an iron-containing ore. However, he knew that electricity was a force present in many non-iron compounds. His findings were first published in 1600 as De Magnete, one of the first important publications of the century (see MAGNETISM).

Around 1663 another German scientist, Otto von Guericke, began

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Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 17th Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Experiments, Inventions and Discoveries 1
  • A 3
  • B 15
  • C 34
  • E 54
  • F 64
  • G 70
  • H 81
  • J 109
  • K 115
  • L 121
  • M 148
  • N 173
  • O 177
  • P 187
  • S 201
  • T 224
  • V 241
  • Appendix 245
  • Glossary of Technical Terms 247
  • Selected Bibliography 257
  • Subject Index 261
  • Name Index 267
  • About the Author 271
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