The Kelvin water dropper making sparks out of running water is so out of this world. How did this project evolve? Even with today's knowledge it wouldn't even come to mind to make something like that!

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    $\begingroup$ You might have more luck getting an answer on the History of Math and Science Stack Exchange $\endgroup$
    – M. Enns
    Oct 28 '19 at 0:36
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    $\begingroup$ One of my cohorts in grad school did his senior project on this, and built a model which worked amazingly well. I am trying to contact him; his name is Robert J. Mc Call Jr. $\endgroup$ Oct 28 '19 at 4:12

In 1859 Kelvin was studying atmospheric electricity, and he wanted to monitor how the atmospheric potential gradient varies over time. He invented a water-dropper equaliser, a simple and robust device that was capable of making continuous recordings of the potential gradient. 1 In 1867 he realised that two droppers could be arranged in a reciprocal way to produce an interesting water-dropper generator. 2


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