Page images

of iron, from which Mr. Faraday infers that the electric current passing from the battery through one wire induces a similar current through the other wire, but only at the instant of contact, and that a momentary current is induced in a contrary direction when the passage of the electricity is suddenly interrupted. These brief currents or waves of electricity were found to be capable of magnetizing needles, of passing through a small extent of fluid, and when charcoal points were interposed in the current of the induced helix, a minute spark was perceived as often as the contacts were made or broken, but neither chemical action nor any other electric effects were obtained. A deviation of the needle of the galvanometer took place when common magnets were employed instead of the voltaic current; so that the magnetic and electric fluids are identical in their effects in this interesting experiment. Again, when a helix formed of 220 feet of copper wire, into which a cylinder of soft iron was introduced, was placed between the north and south poles of two bar magnets, and connected with the galvanometer by means of wires from each extremity, as often as the magnets were brought into contact with the iron cylinder, it became magnetic by induction, and produced a deflection in the needle of the galvanometer. On continuing the contact,

the needle resumed its natural position, and when the contact was broken, the deflection took place in the opposite direction; when the magnetic contacts were reversed, the deflection was reversed also. With strong magnets, so powerful was the action, that the needle of the galvanometer whirled round several times successively; and similar effects were produced by the mere approximation or removal of the helix to the poles of the magnets. Thus magnets produce the very same effects on the galvanometer that electricity does. Though at that time no chemical decomposition was effected by these momentary currents which emanated from the magnets, they agitated the limbs of a frog, and Mr. Faraday justly observes, that an agent which is conducted along metallic wires in the manner described, which, whilst so passing, possesses the peculiar magnetic actions and force of a current of electricity, which can agitate and convulse the limbs of a frog, and which finally can produce a spark by its discharge through charcoal, can only be electricity.' Hence it appears that electrical currents are evolved by magnets, which produce the same phenomena with the electrical currents from the voltaic battery; they, however, differ materially in this respect that time is required for the exercise of the magneto-electric induction, whereas volta-electric induction is instantaneous.

After Mr. Faraday had proved the identity of the magnetic and electric fluids by producing the spark, heating metallic wires, and accomplishing chemical decomposition, it was easy to increase these effects by more powerful magnets and other arrangements. The following apparatus is now in use, which is in effect a battery, where the agent is the magnetic, instead of the voltaic fluid, or, in other words, electricity.

A very powerful horse-shoe magnet, formed of twelve steel plates in close approximation, is placed in a horizontal position. An armature consisting of a bar of the purest soft iron has each of its ends bent at right angles, so that the faces of those ends may be brought directly opposite and close to the poles of the magnet when required. Two series of copper wires-covered with silk, in order to insulate them-are wound round the bar of soft iron as compound helices. The extremities of these wires, having the same direction, are in metallic connexion with a circular disc, which dips into a cup of mercury, while the ends of the wires in the opposite direction are soldered to a projecting screw-piece, which carries a slip of copper with two opposite points. The steel magnet is stationary; but when the armature, together with its appendages, is made to rotate horizontally, the edge of the disc always

remains immersed in the mercury, while the points of the copper slip alternately dip in it and rise above it. By the ordinary laws of induction, the armature becomes a temporary magnet while its bent ends are opposite the poles of the steel magnet, and ceases to be magnetic when they are at right angles to them. It imparts its temporary magnetism to the helices which concentrate it; and while one set conveys a current to the disc, the other set conducts the opposite current to the copper slip. But as the edge of the revolving disc is always immersed in the mercury, one set of wires is constantly maintained in contact with it, and the circuit is only completed when a point of the copper slip dips in the mercury also; but the circuit is broken the moment that point rises above it. Thus, by the rotation of the armature, the circuit is alternately broken and renewed; and as it is only at these moments that electric action is mauifested, a brilliant spark takes place every time the copper point touches the surface of the mercury. Platina wire is ignited, shocks smart enough to be disagreeable are given, and water is decomposed with astonishing rapidity, by the same means, which proves beyond a doubt the identity of the magnetic and electric agencies, and places Mr. Faraday, whose experiments established the principle, in the first rank of experimental philosophers.


M. ARAGO discovered an entirely new source of magnetism in rotatory motion. If a circular plate of copper be made to revolve immediately above or below a magnetic needle or magnet, suspended in such a manner that the needle may rotate in a plane parallel to that of the copper plate, the magnet tends to follow the circumvolution of the plate; or if the magnet revolves, the plate tends to follow its motion; and so powerful is the effect, that magnets and plates of many pounds weight have been carried round. This is quite independent of the motion of the air, since, it is the same when a pane of glass is interposed between the magnet and the copper. When the magnet and the plate are at rest, not the smallest effect, attractive, repulsive, or of any kind, can be perceived between them. In describing this phenomenon, M. Arago states that it takes place not only with metals, but with all substances, solids, liquids, and even gases, although the intensity depends upon the kind of substance in motion. Experiments recently made by Mr. Faraday explain this singular action. A plate of copper, twelve inches in diameter and one-fifth of an inch thick, was placed between the poles of a powerful horse

« PreviousContinue »