Nikola Tesla Articles
High Frequency Oscillators for Electro-therapeutic and Other Purposes *
Some theoretical possibilities offered by currents of very high frequency and observations which I casually made while pursuing experiments with alternating currents, as well as the stimulating influence of the work of Hertz and of views boldly put forth by Oliver Lodge, determined me some time during 1889 to enter a systematic investigation of high frequency phenomena, and the results soon reached were such as to justify further efforts towards providing the laboratory with efficient means for carrying on the research in this particular field, which has proved itself so fruitful since. As a consequence alternators of special design were constructed and various arrangements for converting ordinary into high frequency currents perfected, both of which were duly described and are now — I assume — familiar.
One of the early observed and remarkable features of the high frequency currents, and one which was chiefly of interest to the physician, was their apparent harmlessness which made it possible to pass relatively great amounts of electrical energy through the body of a person without causing pain or serious discomfort. This peculiarity which, together with other mostly unlooked-for properties of these currents I had the honor to bring to the attention of scientific men first in an article in a technical journal in February, 1891, and in subsequent contributions to scientific societies, made it at once evident, that these currents would lend themselves particularly to electro-therapeutic uses.
With regard to the electrical actions in general, and by analogy, it was reasonable to infer that the physiological effects, however complex, might be resolved in three classes. First the statical, that is, such as are chiefly dependent on the magnitude of electrical potential; second, the dynamical, that is, those principally dependent on the quality of electrical movement or current’s strength through the body, and third, effects of a distinct nature due to electrical waves or oscillations, that is, impulses in which the electrical energy is alternately passing in more or less rapid succession through the static and dynamic forms.
Most generally in practice these different actions are coexistent, but by a suitable selection of apparatus and observance of conditions the experimenter may make one or other of these effects predominate. Thus he may pass through the body, or any part of the same, currents of comparatively large volume under a small electrical pressure, or he may subject the body to a high electrical pressure while the current is negligibly small, or he may put the patient under the influence of electrical waves transmitted, if desired, at considerable distance through space.
While it remained for the physician to investigate the specific actions on the organism and indicate proper methods of treatment, the various ways of applying these currents to the body of a patient suggested themselves readily to the electrician.
As one cannot be too clear in describing a subject, a diagrammatic illustration of the several modes of connecting the circuits which I will enumerate, though obvious for the majority, is deemed of advantage.
The first and simplest method of applying the currents was to connect the body of the patient to two points of the generator, be it a dynamo or induction coil. Fig. 1 is intended to illustrate this case. The alternator G may be one giving from five to ten thousand complete vibrations per second, this number being still within the limit of practicability. The electromotive force — as measured by a hot wire instrument — may be from fifty to one hundred volts. To enable strong currents to be passed through the tissues, the terminals T T, which serve to establish contact with the patient’s body should, of course, be of large area, and covered with cloth saturated with a solution of electrolyte harmless to the skin, or else the contacts are made by immersion. The regulation of the currents is best effected by means of an insulating trough A provided with two metal terminals T’ T’ of considerable surface, one of which, at least, should be movable. The trough is filled with water, and an electrolytic solution is added to the same, until a degree of conductivity is obtained suitable for the experiments.
When it is desired to use small currents of high tension, a secondary coil is resorted to, as illustrated in Fig. 2. I have found it from the outset convenient to make a departure from the ordinary ways of winding the coils with a considerable number of small turns. For many reasons the physician will find it better to provide a large hoop H of not less than, say, three feet in diameter and preferably more, and to wind upon it a few turns of stout cable P. The secondary coil S is easily prepared by taking two wooden hoops h h and joining them with stiff cardboard. One single layer of ordinary magnet wire, and not too thin at that, will be generally sufficient, the number of turns necessary for the particular use for which the coil is intended being easily ascertained by a few trials. Two plates of large surface, forming an adjustable condenser, may be used for the purpose of synchronizing the secondary with the primary circuit, but this is generally not necessary. In this manner a cheap coil is obtained, and one which cannot be easily injured. Additional advantages, however, will be found in the perfect regulation which is effected merely by altering the distance between the primary and secondary, for which adjustment provision should be made, and, furthermore, in the occurrence of harmonics which are more pronounced in such large coils of thick wire, situated at some distance from the primary.
The preceding arrangements may also be used with alternating or interrupted currents of low frequency, but certain peculiar properties of high frequency currents make it possible to apply the latter in ways entirely impracticable with the former.
One of the prominent characteristics of high frequency or, to be more general, of rapidly varying currents, is that they pass with difficulty through stout conductors of high self-induction. So great is the obstruction which self-induction offers to their passage that it was found practicable, as shown in the early experiments to which reference has been made, to maintain differences of potential of many thousands of volts between two points — not more than a few inches apart — of a thick copper bar of inappreciable resistance. This observation naturally suggested the disposition illustrated in Fig. 3. The source of high frequency impulses is in this instance a familiar type of transformer which may be supplied from a generator G of ordinary direct or alternating currents. The transformer comprises a primary P, a secondary S, two condensers C C which are joined in series, a loop or coil of very thick wire L and a circuit interrupting device or break b. The currents are derived from the loop L by two contacts c c’, one or both of which are capable of displacement along the wire L. By varying the distance between these contacts, any difference of potential, from a few volts to many thousands, is readily obtained on the terminals or handles T T. This mode of using the currents is entirely safe and particularly convenient, but it requires a very uniform working of the break b employed for charging and discharging the condenser.
Another equally remarkable feature of high frequency impulses was found in the facility with which they are transmitted through condensers, moderate electromotive forces and very small capacities being required to enable currents of considerable volume to pass. This observation made it practicable to resort to a plan such as indicated in Fig. 4. Here the connections are similar to those shown in the preceding case, except that the condensers C C are joined in parallel. This lowers the frequency of the currents, but has the advantage of allowing the working with a much smaller difference of potential on the terminals of the secondary S. Since the latter is the chief item of expense of such apparatus and since its price rapidly increases with the number of turns required, the experimenter will find it generally cheaper to make a sacrifice in the frequency, which, however, will be high enough for most purposes. However, he only needs to reduce proportionately the number of turns or the length of primary p to obtain the same frequency as before, but the economy of transformation will be somewhat reduced in so doing and the break b will require more attention. The secondary S’ of the high frequency coil has two metal plates t t of considerable surface connected to its terminals, and the current for use is derived from two similar plates t’ t’ in proximity to the former. Both the tension and volume of the currents taken from terminals T T may be easily regulated and in a continuous manner by simply varying the distance between the two pair of plates t t and t’ t’ respectively.
A facility is also afforded in this disposition for raising or lowering the potential of one of the terminals T, irrespective of the changes produced on the other terminal, this making it possible to cause a stronger action on one or other part of the patient’s body.
The physician may find it for some or other reason convenient to modify the arrangements in Figs. 2, 3 and 4 by connecting one terminal of the high frequency source to the ground. The effects will be in most respects the same, but certain peculiarities will be noted in each case. When a ground connection is made it may be of some consequence which of the terminals of the secondary is connected to the ground, as in high frequency discharges the impulses of one direction are generally preponderating.
Among the various noteworthy features of these currents there is one which lends itself especially to many valuable uses. It is the facility which they afford for conveying large amounts of electrical energy to a body entirely insulated in space. The practicability of this method of energy transmission, which is already receiving useful applications and promises to become of great importance in the near future, has helped to dispel the old notion assuming the necessity of a return circuit for the conveyance of electrical energy in any considerable amount. With novel appliances we are enabled to pass through a wire, entirely insulated on one end, currents strong enough to fuse it, or to convey through the wire any amount of energy to an insulated body. This mode of applying high frequency currents in medical treatment appears to me to offer the greatest possibilities at the hands of the physician. The effects produced in this manner possess features entirely distinct from those observed when the currents are applied in any of the before mentioned or similar ways.
The circuit connections as usually made are illustrated schematically in Fig. 5, which, with reference to the diagrams before shown, is self-explanatory. The condensers C C, connected in series, are preferably charged by a step-up transformer, but a high frequency alternator, static machine, or a direct current generator, if it be of sufficiently high tension to enable the use of small condensers, may be used with more or less success. The primary p, through which the high frequency discharges of the condensers are passed, consists of very few turns of cable of as low resistance as possible, and the secondary s, preferably at some distance from the primary to facilitate free oscillation, has one of its ends — that is the one which is nearer to the primary — connected to the ground, while the other end leads to an insulated terminal T, with which the body of the patient is connected. It is of importance in this case to establish synchronism between the oscillations in the primary and secondary circuits p and s respectively. This will be as a rule best effected by varying the self-induction of the circuit including the primary loop or coil p, for which purpose an adjustable self-induction e is provided; but in cases when the electromotive force of the generator is exceptionally high, as when a static machine is used and a condenser consisting of merely two plates offers sufficient capacity, it will be simpler to attain the same object by varying the distance of the plates.
The primary and secondary oscillations being in close synchronism, the points of highest potential will be on a part of terminal T, and the consumption of energy will occur chiefly there. The attachment of the patient’s body to the terminal will in most cases very materially affect the period of oscillation in the secondary, making it longer, and a readjustment of the primary circuit will have to be made in each case to suit the capacity of the body connected with terminal T. Synchronism should always be preserved, and the intensity of the action varied by moving the secondary coil to or from the primary, as may be desired. I know of no method which would make it possible to subject the human body to such excessive electrical pressures as are practicable with this, or of one which would enable the conveying to and giving off from the body without serious injury amounts of electrical energy approximating even in a remote degree those which are entirely practicable when this manner of applying the energy is resorted to. This is evidently due to the fact that the action is chiefly superficial, the largest possible section being offered to the transfer of the current, or, to say more correctly, of the energy. With a very rapidly and smoothly working break I would not think it impossible to convey to the body of a person and to give off into the space energy at the rate of several horse power with impunity, while a small part of this amount applied in other ways could not fail to produce injury.
When a person is subjected to the action of such a coil, the proper adjustments being carefully observed, luminous streams are seen in the dark issuing from all parts of the body. These streams are short and of delicate texture when the number of breaks is very great and the action of the device b (Fig. 5) free of any irregularities, but when the number of breaks is small or the action of the device imperfect, long and noisy streams appear which cause some discomfort. The physiological effects produced with apparatus of this kind may be graduated from a hardly perceptible action when the secondary is at a great distance from the primary, to a most violent one when both coils are placed at a small distance. In the latter case only a few seconds are sufficient to cause a feeling of warmth all over the body, and soon after the person perspires freely. I have repeatedly, in demonstrations to friends, exposed myself longer to the action of the oscillations, and each time, after the lapse of an hour or so, an immense fatigue, of which it is difficult to give an idea, would take hold of me. It was greater than I experienced on some occasions after the most straining and prolonged bodily exertion. I could scarcely make a step and could keep the eyes open only with the greatest difficulty. I slept soundly afterward, and the after-effect was certainly beneficial, but the medicine was manifestly too strong to be used frequently.
One should be cautious in performing such experiments for more than one reason. At or near the surface of the skin, where the most intense action takes place, various chemical products are formed, the chief being ozone and nitrogen compounds. The former is itself very destructive, this feature being illustrated by the fact that the rubber insulation of a wire is destroyed so quickly as to make the use of such insulation entirely impracticable. The compounds of nitrogen, when moisture is present, consists largely of nitric acid which might, by excessive application, prove hurtful to the skin. So far, I have not noted injuries which could be traced directly to this cause, though on several occasions burns were produced in all respects similar to those which were later observed and attributed to the Röntgen rays. This view is seemingly being abandoned, having not been substantiated by experimental facts, and so also is the notion that these rays are transverse vibrations. But while investigation is being turned in what appears to be the right direction, scientific men are still at sea. This state of things impedes the progress of the physicist in these new regions and makes the already hard task of the physician still more difficult and uncertain.
One or two observations made while pursuing experiments with the apparatus described might be found as deserving mention here. As before stated, when the oscillations in the primary and secondary circuits are in synchronism, the points of highest potential are on some portion of the terminal T. The synchronism being perfect and the length of the secondary coil just equal to one-quarter of the wave length, these points will be exactly on the free end of terminal T, that is, the one situated farthest from the end of the wire attached to the terminal. If this be so and if now the period of the oscillations in the primary be shortened, the points of highest potential will recede towards the secondary coil, since the wave-length is reduced and since the attachment of one end of the secondary coil to the ground determines the position of the nodal points, that is, the points of least potential. Thus, by varying the period of vibration of the primary circuit in any manner, the points of highest potential may be shifted accordingly along the terminal T, which has been shown, designedly, long to illustrate this feature. The same phenomenon is, of course, produced if the body of a patient constitutes the terminal, and an assistant may by the motion of a handle cause the points of highest potential to shift along the body with any speed he may desire. When the action of the coil is vigorous, the region of highest potential is easily and unpleasantly located by the discomfort or pain experienced, and it is most curious to feel how the pain wanders up and down, or eventually across the body, from hand to hand, if the connection to the coil is accordingly made — in obedience to the movement of the handle controlling the oscillations. Though I have not observed any specific action in experiments of this kind, I have always felt that this effect might be capable of valuable use in electro-therapy.
Another observation which promises to lead to much more useful results is the following: As before remarked, by adopting the method described, the body of a person may be subjected without danger to electrical pressures vastly in excess of any producible by ordinary apparatus, for they may amount to several million volts, as has been shown in actual practice. Now, when a conducting body is electrified to so high a degree, small particles, which may be adhering firmly to its surface, are torn off with violence and thrown to distances which can be only conjectured. I find that not only firmly adhering matter, as paint, for instance, is thrown off, but even the particles of the toughest metals are torn off. Such actions have been thought to be restricted to a vacuous inclosure, but with a powerful coil they occur also in the ordinary atmosphere. The facts mentioned would make it reasonable to expect that this extraordinary effect which, in other ways, I have already usefully applied, will likewise prove to be of value in electro-therapy. The continuous improvement of the instruments and the study of the phenomenon may shortly lead to the establishment of a novel mode of hygienic treatment which would permit an instantaneous cleaning of the skin of a person, simply by connecting the same to, or possibly, by merely placing the person in the vicinity of a source of intense electrical oscillations, this having the effect of throwing off, in a twinkle of the eye, dust or particles of any extraneous matter adhering to the body. Such a result brought about in a practicable manner would, without doubt, be of incalculable value in hygiene and would be an efficient and time-saving substitute for a water bath, and particularly appreciated by those whose contentment consists in undertaking more than they can accomplish.
High frequency impulses produce powerful inductive actions and in virtue of this feature they lend themselves in other ways to the uses of the electro-therapeutist. These inductive effects are either electrostatic or electrodynamic. The former diminish much more rapidly with the distance — with the square of the same — the latter are reduced simply in proportion to the distance. On the other hand, the former grow with the square of intensity of the source, while the latter increase in a simple proportion with the intensity. Both of these effects may be utilized for establishing a field of strong action extending through considerable space, as through a large hall, and such an arrangement might be suitable for use in hospitals or institutions of this kind, where it is desirable to treat a number of patients at the same time.
Fig. 6 illustrates the manner, as I have shown it originally, in which such a field of electrostatic action is established. In this diagram G is a generator of currents of very high frequency, C a condenser for counteracting the self-induction of the circuit which includes the primary P of an induction coil, the secondary S of which has two plates t t of large surface connected to its terminals. Well known adjustments being observed, a very strong action occurs chiefly in the space between the plates, and the body of a person is subjected to rapid variations of potential and surgings of current, which produce, even at a great distance, marked physiological effects. In my first experiments I used two metal plates as shown, but later I found it preferable to replace them by two large hollow spheres of brass covered with wax of a thickness of about two inches. The cables leading to the terminals of the secondary coil were similarly covered, so that any of them could be approached without danger of the insulation breaking down. In this manner the unpleasant shocks, to which the experimenter was exposed when using the plates, were prevented.
In Fig. 7 a plan for similarly utilizing the dynamic inductive effects of high frequency currents is illustrated. As the frequencies obtainable from an alternator are not as high as is desired, conversion by means of condensers is resorted to. The diagram will be understood at a glance from the foregoing description. It only need be stated that the primary p, through which the condensers are made to discharge, is formed by a thick stranded cable of low self-induction and resistance, and passes all around the hall. Any number of secondary coils s s s, each consisting generally of a single layer of rather thick wire, may be provided. I have found it practicable to use as many as one hundred, each being adjusted for a definite period and responding to a particular vibration passed through the primary. Such a plant I have had in use in my laboratory since 1892, and many times it has contributed to the pleasure of my visitors and also proved itself of practical utility. On a latter occasion I had the pleasure of entertaining some of the members with experiments of this kind, and this opportunity I cannot let pass without expressing my thanks for the interest which was awakened in me by their visit, as well as for the generous acknowledgment of the courtesy by the Association. Since that time my apparatus has been very materially improved, and now I am able to create a field of such intense induction in the laboratory that a coil three feet in diameter, by careful adjustment, will deliver energy at the rate of one-quarter of a horse power, no matter where it is placed within the area inclosed by the primary loops. Long sparks, streamers and all other phenomena obtainable with induction coils are easily producible anywhere within the space, and such coils, though not connected to anything, may be utilized exactly as ordinary coils, and what is still more remarkable, they are more effective. For the past few years I have often been urged to show experiments in public, but, though I was desirous to comply with such requests, pressing work has so far made it impossible. These advances have been the result of slow but steady improvement in the details of the apparatus which I hope to be able to describe connectedly in the near future.
However remarkable the electrodynamic inductive effects, which I have mentioned, may appear, they may be still considerably intensified by concentrating the action upon a very small space. It is evident that since, as before stated, electromotive forces of many thousand volts are maintained between two points of a conducting bar or loop only a few inches long, electromotive forces of approximately the same magnitude will be set up in conductors situated near by. Indeed, I found that it was practicable in this manner to pass a discharge through a highly exhausted bulb, although the electromotive force required amounted to as much as ten or twenty thousand volts, and for a long time I followed up experiments in this direction with the object of producing light in a novel and more economical way. But the tests left no doubt that there was great energy consumption attendant to this mode of illumination, at least with the apparatus I had then at command, and, finding another method which promised a higher economy of transformation, my efforts turned in this new direction. Shortly afterward (some time in June, 1891,) Prof. J. J. Thomson described experiments which were evidently the outcome of long investigation, and in which he supplied much novel and interesting information, and this made me return with renewed zeal to my own experiments. Soon my efforts were centered upon producing in a small space the most intense inductive action, and by gradual improvement in the apparatus I obtained results of a surprising character. For instance, when the end of a heavy bar of iron was thrust within a loop powerfully energized, a few moments were sufficient to raise the bar to a high temperature. Even heavy lumps of other metals were heated as rapidly as though they were placed in a furnace. When a continuous band formed of a sheet of tin was thrust into the loop, the metal was fused instantly, the action being comparable to an explosion, and no wonder, for the frictional losses accumulated in it at the rate of possibly ten horse power. Masses of poorly conducting material behaved similarly, and when a highly exhausted bulb was pushed into the loop, the glass was heated in a few seconds nearly to the point of melting.
When I first observed these astonishing actions, I was interested to study their effects upon living tissues. As may be assumed, I proceeded with all the necessary caution, and well I might, for I had the evidence that in a turn of only a few inches in diameter an electromotive force of more than ten thousand volts was produced, and such high pressure would be more than sufficient to generate destructive currents in the tissue. This appeared all the more certain as bodies of comparatively poor conductivity were rapidly heated and even partially destroyed. One may imagine my astonishment when I found that I could thrust my hand or any other part of the body within the loop and hold it there with impunity. More than on one occasion, impelled by a desire to make some novel and useful observation, I have willingly or unconsciously performed an experiment connected with some risk, this being scarcely avoidable in laboratory experience, but I have always believed, and do so now, that I have never undertaken anything in which, according to my own estimation, the chances of being injured were so great as when I placed my head within the space in which such terribly destructive forces were at work. Yet I have done so, and repeatedly, and have felt nothing. But I am firmly convinced that there is great danger attending such an experiment, and some one going just a step farther than I have gone may be instantly destroyed. For, conditions may exist similar to those observable with a vacuum bulb. It may be placed in the field of the loop, however intensely energized, and so long as no path for the current is formed, it will remain cool and consume practically no energy. But the moment the first feeble current passes, most of the energy of the oscillations rushes to the place of consumption. If by any action whatever, a conducting path were formed within the living tissue or bones of the head, it would result in the instant destruction of these and death of the foolhardy experimenter. Such a method of killing, if it were rendered practicable, would be absolutely painless. Now, why is it that in a space in which such violent turmoil is going on living tissue remains uninjured? One might say the currents cannot pass because of the great self-induction offered by the large conducting mass. But this it cannot be, because a mass of metal offers a still higher self-induction and is heated just the same. One might argue the tissues offer too great a resistance. But this again cannot be the reason, for all evidence shows that the tissues conduct well enough, and besides, bodies of approximately the same resistance are raised to a high temperature. One might attribute the apparent harmlessness of the oscillations to the high specific heat of the tissue, but even a rough quantitative estimate from experiments with other bodies shows that this view is untenable. The only plausible explanation I have so far found is that the tissues are condensers. This only can account for the absence of injurious action. But it is remarkable that, as soon as a heterogeneous circuit is constituted, as by taking in the hands a bar of metal and forming a closed loop in this manner, the passage of the currents through the arms is felt, and other physiological effects are distinctly noted. The strongest action is, of course, secured when the exciting loop makes only one turn, unless the connections take up a considerable portion of the total length of the circuit, in which case the experimenter should settle upon the least number of turns by carefully estimating what he loses by increasing the number of turns, and what he gains by utilizing thus a greater proportion of the total length of the circuit. It should be borne in mind that, when the exciting coil has a considerable number of turns and is of some length, the effects of electrostatic induction may preponderate, as there may exist a very great difference of potential — a hundred thousand volts or more — between the first and last turn. However, these latter effects are always present even when a single turn is employed.
When a person is placed within such a loop, any pieces of metal, though of small bulk, are perceptibly warmed. Without doubt they would be also heated — particularly if they were of iron — when embedded in living tissue, and this suggests the possibility of surgical treatment by this method. It might be possible to sterilize wounds, or to locate, or even to extract metallic objects, or to perform other operations of this kind within the sphere of the surgeon’s duties in this novel manner.
Most of the results enumerated, and many others still more remarkable, are made possible only by utilizing the discharges of a condenser. It is probable that but a very few — even among those who are working in these identical fields — fully appreciate what a wonderful instrument such a condenser is in reality. Let me convey an idea to this effect. One may take a condenser, small enough to go in one’s vest pocket, and by skilfully using it he may create an electrical pressure vastly in excess — a hundred times greater if necessary — than any producible by the largest static machine ever constructed. Or, he may take the same condenser and, using it in a different way, he may obtain from it currents against which those of the most powerful welding machine are utterly insignificant. Those who are imbued with popular notions as to the pressures of static machines and currents obtainable with a commercial transformer, will be astonished at this statement — yet the truth of it is easy to see. Such results are obtainable, and easily, because the condenser can discharge the stored energy in an inconceivably short time. Nothing like this property is known in physical science. A compressed spring, or a storage battery, or any other form of device capable of storing energy, cannot do this; if they could, things undreamt of at present might be accomplished by their means. The nearest approach to a charged condenser is a high explosive, as dynamite. But even the most violent explosion of such a compound bears no comparison with the discharge or explosion of a condenser. For, while the pressures which are produced in the detonation of a chemical compound are measured in tens of tons per square inch, those which may be caused by condenser discharges may amount to thousands of tons per square inch, and if a chemical could be made which would explode as quickly as a condenser can be discharged under conditions which are realizable — an ounce of it would quite certainly be sufficient to render useless the largest battleship.
That important realizations would follow from the use of an instrument possessing such ideal properties I have been convinced since long ago, but I also recognized early that great difficulties would have to be overcome before it could replace less perfect implements now used in the arts for the manifold transformations of electrical energy. These difficulties Were many. The condensers themselves, as usually manufactured, were inefficient, the conductors wasteful, the best insulation inadequate, and the conditions for the most efficient conversion were hard to adjust and to maintain. One difficulty, however, which was more serious than the others, and to which I called attention when I first described this system of energy transformation, was found in the devices necessarily used for controlling the charges and discharges of the condenser. They were wanting in efficiency and reliability and threatened to prove a decided drawback, greatly restricting the use of the system and depriving it of many valuable features. For a number of years I have tried to master this difficulty. During this time a great number of such devices were experimented upon. Many of them promised well at first, only to prove inadequate in the end. Reluctantly, I came back upon an idea on which I had worked long before. It was to replace the ordinary brushes and commutator segments by fluid contacts. I had encountered difficulties then, but the intervening years in the laboratory were not spent in vain, and I made headway. First it was necessary to provide for a circulation of the fluid, but forcing it through by a pump proved itself impractical. Then the happy idea presented itself to make the pumping device an integral part of the circuit interrupter, inclosing both in a receptacle to prevent oxydation. Next some simple ways of maintaining the circulation, as by rotating a body of mercury, presented themselves. Then I learned how to reduce the wear and losses which still existed. I fear that these statements, indicating how much effort was spent in these seemingly insignificant details will not convey a high idea of my ability, but I confess that my patience was taxed to the utmost. Finally, though, I had the satisfaction of producing devices which are simple and reliable in their operation, which require practically no attention and which are capable of effecting a transformation of considerable amounts of energy with fair economy. It is not the best that can be done, by any means, but it is satisfactory, and I feel that the hardest task is done.
The physician will now be able to obtain an instrument suitable to fulfil many requirements. He will be able to use it in electro-therapeutic treatment in most of the ways enumerated. He will have the facility of providing himself with coils such as he may desire to have for any particular purpose, which will give him any current or any pressure he may wish to obtain. Such coils will consist of but a few turns of wire, and the expense of preparing them will be quite insignificant. The instrument will also enable him to generate Röntgen rays of much greater power than obtainable with ordinary apparatus. A tube must still be furnished by the manufacturers which will not deteriorate and which will allow to concentrate larger amounts of energy upon the electrodes. When this is done, nothing will stand in the way of an extensive and efficient application of this beautiful discovery which must ultimately prove itself of the highest value, not only at the hands of the surgeon, but also of the electro-therapist and, what is most important, of the bacteriologist.
To give a general idea of an instrument in which many of the latter improvements are embodied, I would refer to Fig. 9, which illustrates the chief parts of the same in side elevation and partially in vertical cross-section. The arrangement of the parts is the same as in the form of instrument exhibited on former occasions, only the exciting coil with the vibrating interrupter is replaced by one of the improved circuit breakers to which reference has been made.
This device comprises a casting A with a protruding sleeve B, which in a bushing supports a freely rotatable shaft a. The latter carries an armature within a stationary field magnet M and on the top, a hollow iron pulley D, which contains the break proper. Within the shaft a, and concentrically with the same, is placed a smaller shaft b, likewise freely movable on ball-bearings and supporting a weight E. This weight being on one side and the shafts a and b inclined to the vertical, the weight remains stationary as the pulley is rotated. Fastened to the weight E is a device R in the form of a scoop with very thin walls, narrow on the end nearer to the pulley and wider on the other end. A small quantity of mercury being placed in the pulley and the latter rotated against the narrow end of the scoop, a portion of the fluid is taken up and thrown in a thin and wide stream towards the centre of the pulley. The top of the latter is hermetically closed by an iron washer, as shown, this washer supporting on a steel rod L a disk F of the same metal provided with a number of thin contact blades K. The rod L is insulated by washers N from the pulley, and for the convenience of filling in the mercury a small screw o is provided. The bolt L forming one terminal of the circuit breaker is connected by a copper strip to the primary p. The other end of the primary coil leads to one of the terminals of the condenser C, contained in a compartment of a box A, another compartment of the same being reserved for switch S and terminals of the instrument. The other terminal of the condenser is connected to the casting A and through it to pulley D. When the pulley is rotated, the contact blades K are brought rapidly in and out of contact with the stream of mercury, thus closing and opening the circuit in quick succession. With such a device it is easy to obtain ten thousand makes and breaks per second and even more. The secondary s is made of two separate coils and so arranged that it can be slipped out, and a metal strip in its middle connects it to the primary coil. This is done to prevent the secondary from breaking down when one of the terminals is overloaded, as it often happens in working Röntgen bulbs. This form of coil will withstand a very much greater difference of potential than coils as ordinarily constructed.
The motor has both field and armature built of plates, so that it can be used on alternating as well as direct current supply circuits, and the shafts are as nearly as possible vertical, so is to require the least care in oiling. Thus, the only thing which really requires some attention is the commutator of the motor, but where alternating currents are always available, this source of possible trouble is easily done away with.
The circuit connections of the instrument have been already shown and the mode of operation explained in periodicals. The usual manner of connecting is illustrated in Fig. 8, in which A2 A2 are the terminals of the supply circuit, L, a self-induction coil for raising the pressure, which is connected in series with condenser C and primary P P. The remaining letters designate the parts correspondingly marked in Fig. 9 and will be understood with reference to the latter.
* Read at the eighth annual meeting of The American Electro-Therapeutic Association, Buffalo, N. Y., Sept. 13 to 15, 1898.