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 The First Condenser - A Beer Glass
Pieter Van Musschenbroek  (1692 - 1761)

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 de nouvelles
Pieter Van Musschenbroek

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


Early Illustration of Leyden Jars
From Nollet's "Lettres sur L'Electricite, 1751

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