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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Electrophorus \E*lec`troph"o*rus\, n.; pl. Electrophori. [NL., fr. combining form electro- + Gr. fe`rein to bear.] (Physics) An instrument for exciting electricity, and repeating the charge indefinitely by induction, consisting of a flat cake of resin, shellac, or ebonite, upon which is placed a plate of metal.


n. (context dated physics English) Any early apparatus, consisting of a rubber disk and a metal plate, for generating static electricity

  1. n. a simple electrostatic generator that generates repeated charges of static electricity

  2. type genus of the family Electrophoridae; electric eels [syn: genus Electrophorus]


An electrophorus is a simple manual capacitive generator used to produce electrostatic charge via the process of electrostatic induction. A first version of it was invented in 1762 by Swedish professor Johan Carl Wilcke,For information about Wilcke's research on the electrophorus (or "dissectible condenser"), see:

  • Joh. Carl Wilcke (1762) "Ytterligare rön och försök om contraira electriciteterne vid laddningen och därtil hörande delar" (Additional findings and experiments on the opposing electric charges [that are created] during charging, and parts related thereto) Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps Academiens Handlingar (Proceedings of the Royal Swedish Science Academy), vol. 23 , pp. 206-229, 245-266. Reprinted in German as: Joh. Carl Wilcke (1765) "Fernere Untersuchung von den entgegengesetzten Elecktricitäten bei der Ladung und den dazu gehörenden Theilen" (Further investigation of the opposing electric charges [that are created] during charging and the parts belonging thereto), Der Königliche schwedischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Abhandlungen aus der Naturlehre, … , vol. 24, pp. 213-235, 253-274.
  • J.L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18th centuries: A study of early modern physics (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 418 - 419. but Italian scientist Alessandro Volta improved and popularized the device in 1775, and is sometimes erroneously credited with its invention. The word electrophorus was coined by Volta from the Greek ήλεκτρον ('elektron'), and ϕέρω ('phero'), meaning 'electricity bearer'.