Sunday 8 July 2012

Fictional Influence Machine

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Note: this article would best be read in context, i.e. after having perused the letters and accounts of Ernest Glitch, Experimentalist, in the order they appear in The Chronicles

This communication between Ernest Glitch and Michael Faraday, dated 17th February 1856, contains reference to an influence machine of similar nature to, but pre-dating, Wimshurst's design.

Seventeenth day of February, 1856. Glitch Manor, Weardale.

My Dear Faraday,

Abject apologies for the brief nature of this letter, and to the rather hurried sketch I enclose. You asked whether I was using a Van Marum or a Winter machine to power my experiments? Neither, Faraday! I have constructed a machine of quite phenomenal performance, capable of generating veritable floods of electrical fluid. As you will clearly gather upon perusing my drawing, it is simply the Bohnenberger machine multiplied, self-influencing and brought to the crest of engineering function.

No more will Hodges complain of ill-health due to the re-amalgamation of the rubbers of my infernal, and now retired, frictional machines. The machine's principles and mechanics of operation will no-doubt be readily apparent to your quick mind Faraday. I have, however, annotated the drawing and forthwith will write upon these pages a description of the machine, in the event you shew my drawing to those sporting less mental agility than your illustrious self

The crank handle (1) turns the large pulley (2) which is supported on a cast stand (3). This is usually some distance from the machine, I have endeavored to draw the arrangement in a compact form for clarity. Leather belts, crossed (4) to the small front pulley, un-crossed (5) to the small rear pulley. Copper hemispherically terminated charge carriers (6) 48 in quantity. Glass radially arranged rods (7) support the charge carriers on the hubs. Earthing conductors with wire brushes at front (8) and rear (9). One of two beaten copper charge collectors (10) I have named my Faraday cages in your honour. Usually I have my giant Leyden Jars attached, however they are presently being used on my Lightning Machine (of which more in a later communication, as it is not yet completed). Sharp needle points (11) within the Faraday cages collect charge by the violet discharge. Glass plate of varying thicknesses can be introduced between the two sets of rotating charge carriers (12) & (13).

At this point I must point out that a degree of unpleasantness was associated with the machine and a recent visit from the Bishop of Durham. The Bishop had with him a man of around twenty & six years, an intense, educated fellow by the name of James Wimshurst. I believe he works for Lloyds, perchance you are acquainted with him Faraday? He and the Bishop stopped at my humble mansion for refreshments, en route to a meeting of the Stockton Gentleman`s Nitrous Club, our mutual destination.

I demonstrated my new creation, and I believe my guests were suitably impressed by the rapid succession of foot long discharges, the product of Hodges' toil at the crank-handle. Hodges himself held a dreadful demeanour, his body and mind only just starting to come to terms with the results of a horrific chemical accident. Wimshurst, a rather cocky fellow to my mind, remarked that perhaps a more simple method of charge transportation could be achieved using glass discs with tin-foil areas around the periphery of the discs. A suggestion. Not an experimentally verified technique, you understand. A reasonable suggestion, Faraday, and an idea I had dismissed early in my musings regarding an influence machine of un-paralleled efficiency. The escape of electrical fluid from the edges of the foil, and the leakage over the glass surface being paramount reasons to throw out the idea. Of course, the construction of such a disc machine would be a much more simple affair than the radially disposed rounded conductor arrangement.

I digress. Hodges' reaction to Wimshurst's idea was immediate. He stopped cranking the machine, and with obvious pain, shuffled towards Wimshurst. His britches were bulging with bandaging, his eyes blood-shot because of the quantity of tincture of hemp he had imbibed for pain relief. He was a most unbecoming sight. Wimshurst was visibly shaken as Hodges launched a verbal tirade of electrical engineering argument, the body of which I have previously stated. He pointed out the fourty-eight hemispherically terminated, and highly polished, charge transporters he had laboriously beaten from copper sheet. He demonstrated the balance of the spoke wheels, elucidating upon the dire (tangentially directed glass shards) consequences of imbalance. Wimshurst stood his ground in terms of engineering for simplicity. Hodges maintaining that efficiency and elegance of construction were of essence. Tension was high. An uneasy stalemate of differing viewpoints appeared to be forming, when Wimshurst made his mistake. He criticised Hodges' workmanship.

Much to the delight of the Bishop, Hodges burst into a rage and offered Wimshurst out. Wimshurst and Hodges squared up to each other in the courtyard. Wimshurst affected the stance of the classically trained pugilist. Hodges, ease of movement severely restricted by bandaging, shuffled up next to him and brought his fore-head violently into cohesion with Wimshurst`s nose. Wimshurst collapsed in a manner not unlike that of an unsupported sack of pig excrement. The Bishop and I held Hodges back so that he could not kill the man. I have seen Hodges beat a person to a pulp for a slight much less grave than criticism!

Should you meet up with Wimshurst, note any probiscal asymmetry and please, Faraday, enquire as to his influence machine ideas! A most amusing fellow.

Your respectful friend,

Ernest Glitch

Copyright © 2002 Roger Curry
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Megaloceros giganteus

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