Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article focuses on developments in electricity and magnetism up to the time of Alessandro Volta. Until the late 1600s electricity as a subject reduced to what has been aptly termed the ‘amber effect’. At the beginning of the century William Gilbert broadened the class of objects that could produce the effect and at the same time introduced a fundamental distinction between it and the properties of the lodestone, or magnet. Gilbert’s Scholastic understanding of magnetism contrasts markedly with what seems to be a quasi-mechanical understanding of electricity, the latter being more congenial to the post-Scholastic way of thinking about nature. This article first provides an overview of experiments on electric objects, including the Leiden jar, before discussing Volta’s quantification of the distinction between amount of electricity and electric tension around 1780.

Keywords: electricity, magnetism, Alessandro Volta, William Gilbert, lodestone, magnet, experiments, electric objects, Leiden jar, electric tension

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.