Coulomb's Law is an experimental result. The furmula that Coulomb found to describe electrostatic interactions is: $$F=k_e\frac{q_1 q_2}{d^2}.$$

How did or What did Coulomb do to verify this law as it is applicable for point charges at rest and in reality charges won't be at rest?

  • $\begingroup$ A detailed account of the experiment is given here webspace.utexas.edu/aam829/1/m/Coulomb_files/… $\endgroup$ – Sandeep Thilakan Feb 14 '14 at 19:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The distance in the formula is missing a square and I cannot fix ("Edits must be at least 6 characters" ). OP or someone with more privileges, please fix it. $\endgroup$ – leonbloy Feb 18 '14 at 14:05

He used what is called a torsion balance. His experimental method is outlined very nicely in this video.

After Coulomb published the result of his work, however, it was debated as to whether his experiment really did provide enough evidence to support his claim that the force between two point charges really did follow the equation we now call Coulomb's Law. This was because subsequent attempts to recreate his experiment proved that it was very difficult to obtain consistent results using Coulomb's method. If you are interested, here (DOI) is a very detailed report which outlines one of these recreations. This author comes to the conclusion that Coulomb's experiment was very very sensitive to any slight change: "Thus we see how just a single, slight, and easily invisible difference between Coulomb’s apt prescriptions and a replication may lead to entirely different results" (561).

Of course, it was later shown more solidly that Coulomb's law does hold up to experimental evidence, but it is still debated as to whether or not Coulomb jumped to conclusions, so to speak, and simply got lucky.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.