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An Entertainment for Angels by Patricia Fara

By Patricia Fara

An leisure for Angels, instead of for males, one observer referred to as electrical energy, and it proved to be the main major clinical discovery of the Enlightenment. teachers attracted large audiences who marveled at glowing fountains, flaming beverages, pirouetting dancers, and electrified boys. Flamboyant experimenters made chains of squaddies jump into the air, whereas filthy rich ladies titillated their admirers with a sensational electrical kiss. Optimists expected that this unusual energy of nature might remedy health problems, increase crop creation, even convey the lifeless again to existence. An leisure for Angels tells the tale of the way electrical energy charged the eighteenth-century mind's eye. With modern illustrations and fascinating prose, Patricia Fara vividly portrays the struggles to appreciate the bizarre and fascinating results experiments have been generating. one of many heroes of the tale is Benjamin Franklin, popular on either side of the Atlantic as knowledgeable on electrical energy, who brought lightning rods to guard tall structures, pioneered thoughts to regard paralyzed sufferers, and constructed the most profitable motives of this mysterious phenomenon. Others contain Luigi Galvani, whose electric examine on frogs and animals makes for grisly studying yet resulted in the invention of direct present electrical energy; and Alessandro Volta, who -- with Napoleon's enthusiastic aid -- turned certainly one of Europe's major medical practitioners and invented the world's first battery.

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Careful experiments soon established that instead of using water, the glass could be lined inside and out with lead foil. Provided that the wire at the top was not touched, a Leyden jar would hold its charge for hours or even days, and by connecting ten, twenty, or even a hundred jars together in batteries, the shock could be increased still further. One of these batteries, now on display at the Boerhaave museum in Leyden, carries an adjustable dial with four settings: detonating cannon, altering a compass needle, killing small animals, and melting wire.

Although they each had their own interests at heart, men like Hauksbee, Gray and Priestley collectively helped to establish the national importance of experiments being carried out in élite institutions like the Royal Society. They transformed natural philosophy from an arcane interest into a public science that would benefit the entire nation. These entrepreneurial philosophers did not only invent new instruments – they also unwittingly participated in the larger, cumulative project of inventing modern science.

Gray (1666–1736) belonged to a well-established family of tradesmen, and like many other provincial artisans, believed that acquiring knowledge would go hand in hand with gaining wealth and social status. Based in Canterbury, Gray found it hard to stimulate metropolitan interest in his electrical suggestions. Already self-taught in microscopy and astronomy, Gray decided to better himself by moving to London and learning more about electricity. Because he had suffered an injury in his dyeing work, he gained a position in the Charterhouse, a charity school in which he could pursue his 42 electrical research.

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