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The National MagLab is funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of Florida.


From the world's first compass to the magnetic force microscope and beyond, we introduce you to a variety of instruments, tools and machines throughout history.

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Apple II Plus - 1976

Long before the iPhone, the iPod or even the Mac, there was the Apple.

Arc Lamp - 1876

Fire lighted the night for many centuries before humans discovered new ways to illuminate their lives.

Audion – 1906

Two years after Englishman John Ambrose Fleming invented a two-electrode vacuum tube, American inventor Lee De Forest one-upped him by developing a tu…

Barlow's Wheel thumbnail

English mathematician Peter Barlow devised an instrument in 1822 that built on advances from earlier in the century, including the invention of the ba…

Bell Telephone – 1876

Acoustics, variable resistance and allegations of foul play contribute to the exciting story of the invention of the telephone.

Bubble Chamber – 1952

To understand a bubble chamber, picture the long, white streak an airplane leaves in its wake.

Coaxial Cable – 1929

As more and more American households acquired telephones, the pressure was on to create a better cable to accommodate the increasing demand. Engineers…

Crookes Tube – 1870

English chemist Sir William Crookes (1832 – 1919) invented the Crookes tube to study gases, which fascinated him. His work also paved the way for the …

Cyclotron – 1931

A cyclotron is a machine that accelerates charged particles to high energies.

Davenport Motor – 1834

Odd though it seems today, when Thomas Davenport was selling one of the first electric motors way back in the 1830s, nobody was buying.

Duchenne Machine – 1850

French physician Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne invented a device that electrically stimulates muscles. The apparatus gave him new insight into neu…

Early Chinese Compass – 400 BC

The first compass was used not to point people in the right direction literally, but figuratively.

Edison Battery – 1903

Although it never quite measured up to expectations, the Edison battery paved the way for the modern alkaline battery.

Electric Range – 1892

From the Stone Age to today, the search is constantly underway for better, more efficient ways to cook food. Reflecting many of the advances in scienc…

Electrocardiograph – 1903

If TV medical dramas have taught us anything, it's how to recognize the heart's characteristic peaks and valleys crawling across monitors in emergency…

Electrophorus – 1764

A very primitive capacitor, this early device allowed scientists to give discs of metal specific charge.

Electrostatic Generator – 1706

Otto von Guericke's electrostatic machine evolved into increasingly improved instruments in the hands of later scientists. In the early 1700s, an Engl…

Faraday Motor – 1821

Few inventions have shaped technology as much as the electric motor, but the very first version — the Faraday motor — didn't look anything like the mo…

Fluorescent Lamps – 1934

Compared to incandescent lamps, fluorescent lamps last longer, require less energy and produce less heat, advantages resulting from the different way …

Mirror Galvanometer thumbnail

A galvanometer is an instrument that can detect and measure small amounts of current in an electrical circuit. 

Gauss-Weber Telegraph – 1833

Several years before the telegraph created by American inventor Samuel Morse revolutionized communications, two German scientists built their own func…

Geiger Counter – 1908

Counting alpha particles was tedious and time-consuming work, until Hans Geiger came up with a device that did the job automatically.

Gold Leaf Electroscope – 1787

For centuries, the electroscope was one of the most popular instruments used by scientists to study electricity. Abraham Bennet first described this v…

Gramme Dynamo – 1871

Zenobe Theophile Gramme (1826 – 1901) invented the first industrial generator, or dynamo. A deceptively simple-looking machine, it consisted of 30 coi…

Hydroelectric Power Station – 1882

The first hydroelectric power plant, known as the Vulcan Street Plant, was powered by the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Iconoscope – 1923

American inventor Vladimir Zworykin, the “father of television," conceived two components key to that invention: the iconoscope and the kinescope.

Kettle – 1891

Found in more homes than any other appliance, the kettle has steadily evolved from an ancient tool to an important modern convenience.

Leclanché Cell – 1866

With only minor changes to its original 1866 design, the Leclanché cell evolved into modern alkaline batteries and the most popular household battery …

Leyden Jars – 1745

Because they could store significant amounts of charge, Leyden jars allowed scientists to experiment with electricity in a way never before possible.

Lodestone – 600 BC

The history of electricity and magnetism starts with this special mineral possessing amazing, and still mysterious, properties.

Maglev Trains – 1984

The railroad industry began in the frontier days, magnetic levitation has moved it squarely into the space age.

Magnetic Core Memory – 1949

At the dawn of the computer age, magnetic core memory helped make data storage possible, and showed surprising staying power in a field where componen…

Magneto – 1832

The magneto helped fire up the first generation of automobiles.

Magnetometer – 1832

The Earth, the moon, the stars and just about everything in between has a magnetic field, and scientists use magnetometers when they need to know the …

Magnetron – 1920

Although they have applications at the highest levels of scientific research, magnetron tubes are used every day by non-scientists who just want to he…

Marconi Radio – 1897

A number of distinguished scientists had a hand in the discovery of "wireless telegraphy," but it was the work done by Guglielmo Marconi that is credi…

Morse Telegraph – 1844

The man most commonly associated with the telegraph, Samuel Morse, did not invent the communications tool. But he developed it, commercialized it and …

Oersted Satellite – 1999

Named in honor of Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted, Denmark’s first satellite has been observing and mapping the magnetic field of the Earth.

Oersted's Compass – 1820

Compasses had been steering people in the right direction for many centuries when, in the year 1820, one particular compass made a very different sort…

Oscilloscope – 1897

From the auto shop to the doctor's office, the oscilloscope is an important diagnostic tool.

Pacemaker – 1960

Many heads, hands and hearts contributed to the development of this lifesaving device.

Planté Battery – 1859

French physicist Gaston Planté invented the first rechargeable battery, leaving an enduring legacy in battery history. To see it, just pop the hood of…

Rheostat thumbnail

The rheostat was developed in the mid-1800s by Charles Wheatstone as a means of varying resistance in a circuit.

Schweigger Multiplier – 1820

Spurred by Hans Christian Ørsted's discovery of a relationship between electricity and magnetism, German chemist Julian Schweigger immediately began t…

Smoothing Iron – 1882

Although not as celebrated as many other scientific inventions, the smoothing iron has its own rich history of development stretching all the way from…

Stanley Transformer – 1886

Applying discoveries Michael Faraday had made a few decades earlier, William Stanley designed the first commercial transformer for Westinghouse in 188…

Steam Condensing Engine – 1769

Few inventions have affected human history as much as the steam engine. Without it, there would have been no locomotives, no steamers and no Industria…

Sulfur Globe – 1660

In the 17th century, German scientist Otto von Guericke built and carried out experiments with a sulfur globe that produced static electricity.

Tesla Coil – 1891

By the late 1800s, electricity had long been discovered and was no longer considered a novelty. The science of how to store, enhance, or transmit elec…

Torsion Balance – 1785

Charles-Augustin de Coulomb didn't invent the torsion balance, but he was the first to discover it could be used to measure electrical charge – the fi…

Transatlantic Telegraph Cable – 1858

The main figure behind the first transatlantic telegraph knew very little about the science or engineering behind it, but was convinced that with it a…

Voltaic Pile – 1800

For thousands of years, electricity was an ephemeral phenomenon – there one second and gone the next. The voltaic pile changed that forever.

Wheatstone Bridge – 1843

This device for measuring resistance in a circuit, still widely used today, was "discovered" in 1843, but had been invented a decade earlier. The inve…

Wimshurst Machine – 1880

In the modern world, virtually everyone is familiar with electricity as an accessible, essential form of energy.

Zeeman Effect – 1896

Most of us have seen the rainbow-hued breakdown of the composition of light. Light is of course a form of energy. A magnetic field changes the behavio…