Pieter Van Musschenbroek
(1692 - 1761)
Pieter Van Musschenbroek, a professor of physics and
mathematics at the university of Leyden, and E.G. Von Kleist, Dean of the
Kamin Cathedral in Pomerania, independently created the electric
condenser, named the "Leyden Jar" by Abbe Nollet. Von Kleist was the first
to discover the surprising effects of the jar, but it was Musschenbroek (and
his assistants Allmand and Cunaeus) who reported their results clearly
enough for others to duplicate the experiment and so credit has gone to him.
Essai de Physique...Avec une Description
Musschenbroek announced the discovery in January, 1746.
However, A letter dated February 4, 1745 (see excerpt below right) appearing
in Philosophical Transactions suggests that the jar existed in
Musschenbroek's laboratory almost a year before that date. There is still
some controversy about this but the generally held opinion is: "Trembley,
the editor, or the composter of the letter in PT either misdated the letter,
or failed to translate properly into the new style (NS). Until 1752 the
English began their legal year on March 25 so that, roughly speaking, their
dates were a year behind continental ones for the first quarter of every
continental year."14 This makes sense because there would be no
reason for Musschenbroek and his staff to delay announcing for 11 months,
especially given the potential claim to prior discovery by Von Kleist.
Trembley's letter is fascinating as it is one of the
earliest first-hand accounts of this new discovery. He happened to be in
Holland about the time of the discovery and his letter was the first word to
England of the marvelous new jar. 14
Essai de Physique... Vol I.
Title Page and Frontispiece
First Illustration of a Leyden Jar
From J.H. Winkler, 1746
Excerpt of a letter from Mr. Trembley reporting on one of the
first demonstrations of the Leyden Jar
February 4, 1745 NS