Friday Fun Fact: Irish seminarians were used as guinea pigs to test voltage

Another fun fact thanks to Sean Dukes book, How Irish Scientists Changed the World.

Fr Nicholas Callan use seminarians as a way to measure voltage

Fr Nicholas Callan

Fr Nicholas Callan

In 1836 Fr Nicholas Callan started developing the induction coil, a type of transformer which produces high voltages from a low DC supply. However, at the time there were no instruments which could test the coils range of voltages. Using what he had to hand, the resourceful Fr Callan got a number of seminarians to hold hands. Fr Callan would then assess the voltage by seeing how high the last two students jumped in the air. Famously, one of the student once was knocked unconscious, the future Archbishop of Dublin William Walsh.

After this happened, Fr Callan was forbidden to experiment on students so he used turkeys. Attaching electrodes to a turkeys head, Fr Callan would deem the step up in voltage good if the turkey was killed by electrocution.

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