The gold leaf electroscope has a very very thin piece of gold foil (called gold leaf) fixed at the top to a piece of copper. The copper has a large round top, called. A gold-leaf electroscope is an instrument used (mainly historically) for the measurement of electric charge or potential. The gold leaf mounts to the central rod, and deflects due to the charge on the Before beginning your experiments with your electroscope, the gold leaf foil must .

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For centuries, the electroscope was one of the most popular instruments used by scientists to study electricity.

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Abraham Bennet first described this electrodcope in An electroscope is a device used to detect an electric charge. For centuries, it was one of the most popular instruments used by scientists to study electricity.

His device, dubbed the versoriumconsisted of a lightweight needle balanced on gols pivot. The presence of electricity in a nearby object caused the needle to move. With the versorium, Gilbert carried out a number of experiments and proved that many materials besides amber acquire a charge when rubbed. The repulsion-based electroscope generally supplanted the versorium in the s.


To keep breezes, moisture and other outside influences from disturbing results, some researchers began housing the components of their electroscopes in glass jars or other vessels.

The gold leaf electroscope, like the one illustrated here, first appeared in the latter part of the 18th century. Abraham Benneta clergyman and man of science, first described the instrument in Philosophical Transactions in The rod extended out of the top of the housing.

That way, whenever an experimenter placed an electrified object close to it, the rod acquired charge via inductance. The charge then flowed down to the gold leaves and evenly distributed across their surfaces.

Once electrified, the leaves moved apart because their similar charges eleectroscope repulsion. Some models of gold leaf electroscopes also featured a conductive disc or ball at the apex.

Electroscope – Wikipedia

The purpose of the metal strips, according to some sources, was to protect the leaves of the device from static charge build-up on the glass, though some scientists claimed they actually improved the precision of the electroscope. Researchers quickly realized, however, that the type of charge was simple to determine by following the initial charging of the device with the application of a known charge from amber, fur or some other familiar, well-studied material.


In addition, they found that the electroscope was useful in determining the relative amount of charge present. By equipping their electroscopes with scales, scientists could easily measure the angle between the gold leaves.

The greater the angle, they ascertained, the stronger the repulsion and the greater the charge present. By the late s, researchers such as Marie and Pierre Curie began using advanced electroscopes to study radioactivity.

The gold leaf electroscope

In a charged electroscope, the radiation emitted from radioactive materials ionizes the gas inside the device. The ionization allows the charge of the leaves of the electroscope to dissipate slowly. The rate at which the charge dissipates and the leaves resume their limp, uncharged arrangement is proportional to the radiation intensity. Last modified on 10 December