This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
In admiring the recent developments of electric science as evidenced by the number of important inventions which have during the past few years been given to the world, especially in those branches of applied science which deal more particularly with the generation of electricity and the production of the electric light, there is often too great a tendency to forget, or, at least, to pass over in comparative silence the claims which the great pioneer workers and discoverers undoubtedly have to a large share of the merit of this scientific development.
It is, of course, obviously impossible in anything approaching a retrospect of the science of magneto-electric induction or its application to illumination to pass slightly over the names of Oersted, of Ampère, of Davy, and of Faraday, but, in other respects, their work is too often lost sight of in the splendid modern developments of their discoveries. Again, there is another group of discoverer-inventors who occupy an intermediate position between the abstract discoverers above named and the inventors and adapters of still more recent times. To this group belong the names of Pixii and Saxton, Holmes and Nollet, Wilde, Varley, Siemens, Wheatstone, and Pacinotti, who was the first to discover a means of constructing a machine capable of giving a continuous current always in the same direction, and which has since proved itself to be the type of nearly all the direct current electric machines of the present day, and especially those such as the Gramme and Brush and De Meritens machines, in which the rotating armature is of annular form; and when it is considered what a large number of the well known electric generators are founded upon this discovery, it must be a matter of general gratification that the recent International Jury of the Paris Exhibition of Electricity awarded to Dr. Antonio Pacinotti one of their highest awards.
The original machine designed by Dr. Pacinotti in the year 1860, and which we illustrate on the present page, formed one of the most interesting exhibits in the Paris Exhibition, and conferred upon the Italian Section a very distinctive feature, and we cannot but think that while all were interested in examining it, there must have been many who could not help being impressed with the fact that it took something away from the originality of design in several of the machines exhibited in various parts of the building.
This very interesting machine was first illustrated and described by its inventor in the Nuovo Cimento in the year 1864, under the title "A Description of a Small Electro-Magnetic Machine," and to this description we are indebted for the information and diagrams contained in this notice, but the perspective view is taken from the instrument itself in the Paris Exhibition.
In this very interesting historical communication the author commences by describing a new form of electro-magnet, consisting of an iron ring around which is wound (as in the Gramme machine) a single helix of insulated copper wire completely covering the ring, and the two ends of the annular helix being soldered together, an annular magnet is produced, enveloped in an insulated helix forming a closed circuit, the convolutions of which are all in the same direction. If in such a system any two points of the coil situated at opposite ends of the same diameter of the ring be connected respectively with the two poles of a voltaic battery, the electric current having two courses open to it, will divide into two portions traversing the coil around each half of the ring from one point of contact to the other, and the direction of the current, in each portion will be such as to magnetize the iron core, so that its magnetic poles will be situated at the points where the current enters and leaves the helix, and a straight line joining these points may be looked upon as the magnetic axis of the system. From this construction it is clear that, by varying the position of the points of contact of the battery wires and the coil, the position of the magnetic axis will be changed accordingly, and can be made to take up any diametrical position with respect to the ring, of which the two halves (separated by the diameter joining the points of contact of the battery wires with the coil) may be regarded as made up of two semicircular horseshoe electro-magnets having their similar poles joined. To this form of instrument the name "Transversal electro magnet" (Eletro calamita transversale) was given by its inventor, to whom is undoubtedly due the merit of having been the first to construct an electro-magnet the position of whose poles could be varied at will by means of a circular commutator.
By applying the principle to an electro-magnetic engine, Dr. Pacinotti produced the machine which we illustrate on the present page. The armature consists of a turned ring of iron, having around its circumference sixteen teeth of equal size and at equal angular distance apart, as shown in Fig. 1, forming between them as many spaces or notches, which are filled up by coiling within them helices of insulated copper wire, r r r, in a similar manner to that adopted in winding the Brush armature, and between them are fixed as many wooden wedges, m m, by which the helices are firmly held in their place. All the coils are wound round the ring in the same direction, and the terminating end of each coil is connected to the commencing end of the next or succeeding helix, and the junctions so made are attached to conducting wires which are gathered together close to the vertical shaft on which the armature ring is fixed, passing through holes at equal distances apart in a wooden collar fixed to the same shaft, and being attached at their lower extremities to the metallic contact pieces of the commutator, c, shown at the lower part of Fig. 3, which is an elevation of the machine, while Fig. 4 is a plan of the same apparatus.