Museo Galileo
Virtual Museum
Nobili's sparking magnet
    • Setting:
      Room XVI
    • Inventor:
      Leopoldo Nobili
    • Maker:
    • Date:
      ca. 1832
    • Materials:
      wood, iron, steel, brass
    • Dimensions:
      total height 160 mm, base 175x150x70 mm
    • Inventory:
    • Nobili's sparking magnet (Inv. 1270)

First version of Leopoldo Nobili's sparking magnet. The wooden base carries a permanent horseshoe magnet. A crude coil with a flexible contact strip is attached to a swiveling brass arm with mahogany handle. When the circuit consisting of the magnet and the contact strip is broken, or quickly restored by a rapid to-and-fro movement of the bobbin, a tiny electric spark is produced between the contact strip and the magnet. It is generated by the induced current due to the opening and closing of the circuit. Nobili and the director of the Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale of Florence, Vincenzo Antinori, were inspired to develop the sparking magnet after reading an account of how Michael Faraday had obtained a spark from an electromagnet in 1831. All the experiments made with sparks produced by electrical machines were thus repeated with this type of instrument. Provenance: Lorraine collections.