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Electro-Magnetic Machines

We are grateful to Dr. P. M. Last, who demonstrated and provided an opportunity to photograph this machine. The apparatus was originally owned by Dr. H. C. F. Esau MD (Göttingen), the first general practioner in Woodside.

A short time after Michael Faraday (1831) showed that changing magnetic fields will induce an electric current in a neighbouring wire, numerous types of electromagnetic machines were developed. They were used not only in parlour demonstrations, but also in the treatment of some medical conditions.

The machine has a horseshoe permanent magnet, and two bobbins wound with wire rotated by a system of sprockets. They had a wide range of medical uses, and were popular in the latter part of the 19th century.

Their uses were directed at a wide range of conditions such as neurasthenia, toothache, and chronic fatigue syndromes. Reports in refereed medical journals were not supportive and the American FDA attempted to ban them in 1972, and they are no longer in use. Physiotherapists now however use much more sophisticated apparatus which produce deep heat either by radio short waves or therapeutic ultrasound.

EM machine instructions.
Inside of the lid showing manufacturer and directions for use.
EM machine and electrodes.
Machine showing the hand held electrodes.

The machine with the magnet, rotating coils and the hand driven geared up sprockets and a final pulley drive. An increase in rotating speed produced sensations ranging from tingling to an electric shock.

The machine's internals.
The machine's internals.

School boy's "Electrical sets" in the first part of the 20th century often included "Shocking Coils" run off a dry battery using a "make and break" actuated by the magnetism produced by a primary coil which induced a higher voltage in the multiple windings of the surrounding secondary coil, connected to the handles. These were only for domestic fun, or to demonstrate the principle of an induction coil.