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Collection Tier:
Tier 2

Medical ➔ Toepler-holtz Static Electric Generator

A Toepler-Holtz static electric generator in a glass and wood cabinet, including attachments to direct the electrical current for a variety of uses. This object is scientifically significant because it is an early example of how new technologies like electricity were put to, sometimes fraudulent, medical uses.

The generator is believed to have been manufactured about 1900. It was first used in a doctor's office in the Holland area to treat various ailments. Sometime in the mid-twentieth century the doctor gave the generator to Hope College. The college used it in Physics lab demonstrations to illustrate scientific concepts such as the generation of electricity and x-rays.

Complete Toepler Holtz Generators of this type are very rare, with a few other examples in museums around the world.  This piece is complete and in working condition

Mankind has known about static electricity for thousands of years, but machines to generate and harness that force only date back to the 17th century. By the mid 1800s the German physicist Wilhelm Holtz had developed the most advanced electrostatic generator yet known. His design was based on a glass disc which could be rotated at a high speed, very near to a second stationary disc. Induction plates mounted on the fixed disc would pick up electrical charge with each rotation. During the early twentieth century these machines were being used in doctor's offices around the country to treat a variety of ailments. The attachments present with this machine give some clues as to its use. The "crown" attachment could be placed over a patient's head to treat headaches or baldness, the roller could be used to soothe sore muscles, etc.
circa 1900
Wood, Metal, Glass
83" h 39" w 59" d
Current Location Status:
In Storage
Gift Of Hope College Department Of Physics
Big Stuff (November 12 2011 – February 29 2012)
BIG STUFF from the Permanent Collection
An inspired selection of favorites chosen by the Museum Staff

For more than 150 years, the Public Museum has been collecting STUFF.  We’re the keepers of important “one for the record books” stuff; quirky “what were they thinking” stuff; fragile “from a bygone era” stuff; patent-related “don’t forget whose stuff this is” stuff; small to the point of being overlooked stuff; and BIG “how did you get that through the door” stuff.  In short, we keep track of history through the physical objects our society has amassed along the way.  
But stuff requires more storage space than anyone cares to think about.  As a result, a mere 10% of the Museum’s collection is on display here at any given time.  This is our attempt to correct that.  We’ve pulled back the dust covers, opened the drawers and invited Museum staff members into the archives to vote on their favorites in one category - BIG STUFF.  Conjure up all the adjectives you can come up with to replace BIG, then have a look inside!

Hope College