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Electric Egg

The electric egg lies at the intersection of two technologies: high vacuum and high
voltage. By the eighteen sixties vacuum pumps, and induction coils and electrostatic
machines (including Wimshurst and Voss machines) had developed to the point where it
was possible to create an electrical discharge in the residual gas between two small
spheres in the evacuated space. Gassiot's Shower is another example of an electrical
discharge between two electrodes in a near vacuum. Unlike Geissler tubes, which are
evacuated and sealed off, electric eggs are pumped out each time, the valve closed, and
the tube placed back on its foot for the demonstration. The upper electrode can be slid up
and down through a leather-lined and greased packing to change the length of the
discharge. With residual air, the glow is bluish, but other gases and liquids can be
introduced into the egg to give different colors of discharge. Some of the eggs have hooks
on the upper electrodes, to allow them to be hung from one conductor of the high-voltage
The egg in the Amherst College Collection was made by E. Ducretet and Company of

Amherst College
Smithsonian Institution

Glasgow University

with is also present in the Gassiot's Shower cup. and is not a true electric egg. This firm became Chamberlain and Ritchie by 1854. Jr. Wittenberg University . The electrodes are made of carbon. and adjusted until they almost touch.Note that the electric egg in the middle below is made from uranium glass. who may have imported the apparatus. Dartmouth College Dartmouth College The upper electric egg is at Bates College in Maine. After the globe is filled with chlorine gas.00 in the 1856 catalogue of Benjamin Pike. of New York. A very similar piece is shown at a price of $6. an electric arc is struck between the electrodes. and was made by Chamberlain of Boston. which glow red hot. The chlorine is unaffected by the heating of the electrodes. The left-hand example is by Apps of London.

Materials: mahogany. The glass tube is supported on a glass pillar. The tube is partially evacuated by means of an air pump. A ball electrode is joined to the lower brass collar. brass Dimensions: total height 580 mm Inventory: Aurora tube (Inv. Inside the tube are two other electrodes: the upper one ends in a point. A brass spike projects at right angles from the upper brass collar. Return to Static Electricity Home Page Return to Home Page late 18th cent. with a turned mahogany base. Indiana. weighted by means of a lead ring to prevent the instrument from toppling over.which sets an upper bound to its age. The lower example is from St. The electrification causes the inside of the tube to glow with a light closely resembling an aurora borealis. the lower one in a ball. glass. . 1203) This device was used to simulate the aurora borealis phenomenon. Mary's College in Notre Dame. The glass is then rubbed with a cloth or the electrodes are touched with the conductor of an electrical machine.

. too.symptoms of a Blue Velvet-ish kind of curiosity. 423) Pear-shaped glass vessel with central brass spike and threaded brass collar. this piece occupies some seductive. brass. The outer half of the flask is covered with lead foil (originally tin foil). Filippo Lucci depicted a very similar device in the Stanzino of the Matematiche of the Uffizi in 1780—clear evidence of the popularity of such demonstrations in the late eighteenth century.though they’re maybe most peculiar intheir technical provenance. uncanny invention. Nina Canell’s The New Mineral (2009) might be a newly discovered readymadeby Marcel Duchamp: a reconstructionof an early radiometer built by the Victorian occultist William Crooks. Provenance: Lorraine collections. mysterious territory between weird science experiment and darkly metaphorical. This device was used to simulate the aurora borealis phenomenon. Miroslav Tichý’s haunting snapshots of girls in various Czech parks are here. behaved differently for positive and negative electrical charges. It was then electrified by means of the prime conductor of an electrical machine. as they were caught on a homemade camera builtfrom cardboard and salvaged glass. Materials: glass. Tichý was possibly the first person to detect the erotic properties of shadows. Dating from between 1950 and 1980. it consists of dimly glowing light-bulbs on broomsticks. covered by a cap. which greatly resembled an aurora borealis. max. The flask was connected to an air pump and partially evacuated. their subjects resemble wraiths peering outof a toxic mist. The glow produced at the spike. they recall 19thcentury spiritualist photographs. all but one containing dreamily twirling spindles. He claimed this as proving Benjamin Franklin's theory of a single electric fluid. diameter 94 mm Inventory: 423 Aurora flask (Inv. late 18th cent.William Henley used a comparable instrument to demonstrate the glow produced by positive or negative discharges. Provenance: Lorraine collections. Oddly exemplary of much of the exhibition. lead foil Dimensions: total height 275 mm.

for instance. transformations of data into exquisitely meaningless abstractions that purport to record ‘Love and Logic inArt’ or ‘Miracles in Nature and Science’ (2011). a copy of Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal (1949) and ‘The Magician’s Coat Sequence’. . a typical box contains a telephone directory. their contents indexed but history obscure. Toril Johannessen’simpossible graphs.The version of contemporary art that ‘Curiosity’ suggests is one which takesa sly joy in playing with science like a Surrealist playing with a journalist. Elsewhere. there’s a section of Agency’s sombre archive project Curiosity (Assembly) (1992–ongoing). feeding it metaphysical riddles it can’t comprehend: see. Row upon row of boxes are neatly serried to the ceiling.