Ever wonder how scientists figured out how to store electrical charges? A post over at MIT’s online library explains how it was done with Leyden jars around the beginning of the 1800’s.
The Leyden jar is the ancestor of our modern capacitor. As experimentation with electricity progressed through the 18th century, scientists were looking for better ways to store an electric charge. Insulated conductors could be used to store a charge, though a more compact storage device was greatly desired.
Ewald von Kleist and Pieter van Musschenbroek, each working independently, invented a solution in the 1740s. They discovered that a glass jar lined with metal foil on both the inside and the outside was capable of holding a significant electric charge. The device came to be called a “Leyden jar” by Van Musschenbroek’s colleagues, since the Dutch scientist was at the time teaching at the University of Leiden.