Zamboni pendulum

The instrument was donated or sold to Salvatore Dal Negro by Giuseppe Zamboni.

Inventor and maker: Giuseppe Zamboni, b.1776 - d.1846. Physicist. He taught at the Liceo Maffei in Verona from 1805 to 1846.

Date: 1830


The instrument corresponds to the description given by Giuseppe Zamboni in 1843 : “Two such batteries inaccessible to air exist in the Cabinet of Physics of the I. R. University of Padua, where they maintain the oscillations of the pendulum even at temperatures below zero, and are now fifteen years old” (Zamboni, 1843).

The device is made of a pendulum placed between two Zamboni dry batteries. Zamboni himself explained that at first, he had made his batteries by successfully superimposing “the so called gold papers”, i.e. sheets of paper with one side covered with a layer of copper, and the so called “silver” papers, covered with tin. Zamboni made the metallic faces of those two types of papers fit, he cut them, and superimposed the pairs thus obtained, thus constituting a battery of thousands of elements. He later decided to use only silver paper and to apply on its reverse side manganese oxide. He thus obtained a battery much more effective, both because the couple manganese-tin was more performant and because one of the layers of paper between the metals was suppressed.

In the present apparatus, the batteries are inserted within glass cylinders and fixed on wooden bases. They thus correspond to the models that Zamboni defines as “non accessible to air”. The brass electrodes at the top of the batteries look like two pine cones and are respectively connected to two discs parallel to one another. Between these discs a very light pendulum is mounted on a wooden, glass and amber support. The pendulum consists of a small brass ring.

The pendulum oscillated between the two batteries from 1830 to 1937, when one of the batteries fell and broke.

Inscription: Ottobre 1830

Materials and techniques: wood/brass/glass/paper/amber/tin/ manganese oxide

Dimensions: height 60 cm, width 35 cm, depth 15 cm

Related scholars: Salvatore Dal Negro (b.1768 - d.1839). Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Padua from 1806 to 1839.

Keywords: electricity, electromagnetism, electrodynamics

University of Padua, Museum of the History of Physics

Cat. Number: 249


  • "Bagliori nel vuoto. Dall'uovo elettrico ai raggi X: elettricità e pneumatica dal Seicento ad oggi", Padua, Botanical garden, 1 February-30 June 2004


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  • Giuseppe Zamboni, Descrizione ed uso dell’elettromotore perpetuo, Verona, 1814
  • Giuseppe Zamboni, Sopra i miglioramenti fatti alla sua pila elettrica, lettera all’Accademia Reale delle Scienze di Monaco, Verona, 1816
  • Giuseppe Zamboni, L’elettromotore perpetuo, Verona, 1820-1822
  • Giuseppe Zamboni, Sull’elettromotore perpetuo – Istruzione teorico-pratica, Verona, 1843
  • Jules Jamin, Cours de physique de l’Ecole Polytechnique, 3 vols., Paris, 1858-1866