Electrical Fire! A Course of Experiments Performed for the Curious in the Philosophy Chamber 1775

Ever wonder what it was like to attend Harvard College in the mid-1700s? Earlier this fall, Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments recreated some 18th century electrical experiments straight out of the lecture notes of Professor John Winthrop and the demonstrations at Faneuil Hall by Ebenezer Kinnersley, one of Benjamin Franklin’s friends and contemporaries. The audience witnessed the surprising effects of electrical attraction and repulsion, a fire lit by water, bells rung by an invisible, imponderable fluid, and a vivid warning to all who do not have lightning rods on their homes! Rare 18th-century apparatus from Harvard's Philosophy Chamber (preserved by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments) were on exhibit during and after the lecture.

Experiments were performed with vintage and replica instruments by CHSI Curator Sara Schechner, and Lecture Demonstrator & Teaching Fellow Daniel Rosenberg.

This event was sponsored by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, FAS Course United States in the World 30: "Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History," the Harvard Art Museums, and the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture.