Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/103

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
93
THE AVAILABLE ENERGY OF NATURE.

for power, as they grow beside navigable rivers, for shipping. Thus, hitherto, the use of water-power has been confined chiefly to isolated factories which can be conveniently placed and economically worked in the neighborhood of natural waterfalls. But the splendid suggestion made about three years ago by Mr. Siemens in his presidential address to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, that the power of Niagara might be utilized, by transmitting it electrically to great distances, has given quite a fresh departure for design in respect to economy of rain-power. From the time of Joule's experimental electro-magnetic engines developing ninety per cent, of the energy of a voltaic battery in the form of weights raised, and the theory of the electromagnetic transmission of energy completed thirty years ago on the foundation afforded by the train of experimental and theoretical investigations by which he established his dynamical equivalent of heat in mechanical, electric, electro-chemical, chemical, electro-magnetic, and thermo-elastic phenomena, it had been known that potential energy from any available source can be transmitted electro-magnetically by means of an electric current through a wire, and directed to raise weights at a distance, with unlimitedly perfect economy. The first large-scale practical application of electro-magnetic machines was proposed by Holmes in 1854, to produce the electric light for lighthouses, and persevered in by him till he proved the availability of his machine to the satisfaction of the Trinity House and the delight of Faraday in trials at Blackwall in April, 1857, and it was applied to light the South Foreland Lighthouse on December 8, 1858. This gave the impulse to invention, by which the electro-magnetic machine has been brought from the physical laboratory into the province of engineering, and has sent back to the realm of pure science a beautiful discovery, that of the fundamental principle of the dynamo, made triply and independently, and as nearly as may be simultaneously, in 1867 by Dr. Werner Siemens, Mr. S. A. Varley,'and Sir Charles Wheatstone—a discovery which constitutes an electro-magnetic analogue to the fundamental electrostatic principle of Nicholson's revolving doubler, resuscitated by Mr. C. F. Varley in his instrument "for generating electricity," patented in 1860; and by Holtz in his celebrated electric machine; and by myself in my "replenisher" for multiplying and maintaining charges in Leyden jars for heterostatic electrometers, and in the electrifier for the siphon of my recorder for submarine cables.

The dynamos of Gramme and Siemens, invented and made in the course of these fourteen years since the discovery of the fundamental principle, give now a ready means of realizing economically on a large scale for many important practical applications the old thermo-dynamics of Joule in electro-magnetism; and, what particularly concerns us now in connection with my present subject, they make it possible to transmit electro-magnetically the work of waterfalls through long, insulated conducting wires, and use it at distances of fifties or hun-