Jason Clarke Antiques

Edwardian Wimshurst Machine by Philip Harris of Birmingham


For sale, an Edwardian Wimshurst Machine by Philip Harris of Birmingham.

The Wimshurst influence machine or electrostatic generator was developed by the British inventor James Wimshurst between 1880 & 1883.

The machine has a wooden base with two contra rotating glass shellaced discs with 15 original buttoned brass sectors attached to the front. By turning the handle electrostatic charge is sent to the two glass Leyden jars which sit either side of the base. Once enough charge has been stored within the jars a spark is released between the two brass nodes to the front of the machine.

Although this machine has a rubbed ivorine plate,  it is certain to have been manufactured by Philip Harris & Co of Birmingham as it bears exact similarities to other examples of the company’s Wimshurst models.

Still in existence today, unusually the company website pays little respect to its early history. The company began as Thomas Ellis in 1817 and Harris joined the company in 1825. Harris seems to have taken over the company around 1866 in Birmingham whereafter it grew significantly and it remains a dominant provider of educational scienitific equipment today.

James Wimshurst was the Chief Shipwright Surveyor for Lloyds of London but dedicated his spare time to scientific experimentation. Widely known for his experiments with electricity, he became a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1889 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1898.

The machine is in full working order although it should be noted that this machine maintains its original brass sectors so it needs some initial excitement to work. For this instrument, a simple rub of a polythene bag on your clothes and then a touch to the discs will have the desired effect. Additional sectors could be provided dependent on preference but this one is original so it has been retained as complete.

Circa 1910

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