Hugo Gernsback and the Rabbit Experiment - A Newspaper Article from 1920 - An Engineer's Aspect


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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hugo Gernsback and the Rabbit Experiment - A Newspaper Article from 1920

Hugo Gernsback, an American inventor born in Luxembourg, became fascinated by Nikola Tesla's electrical experiments and tried to duplicate Tesla's electrical bath. This article recounts his attempt to replicate Tesla's experiment using a rabbit.

Hugo Gernsback is quite noteworthy in his own right. He was a writer, editor and magazine publisher. He published the first science fiction magazine and is sometimes called "The Father of Science Fiction," along with H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. The annual Science Fiction Achievement awards are named the "Hugos" in honor of Hugo Gernsback (The Science Fiction Hall of Fame).

Lebanon Daily and Semi-Weekly News, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Wednesday, March 3, 1920.


It is almost sure death to step upon the third rail of an electric road, for he who does it will get a shock of at least 500 volts. But you can jump on a third rail and stand on it with both feet and feel nothing. You must, however, jump off with both feet or you will get the shock. The reason is that when both feet are on the rail there is no circuit.

Watching two boys amusing themselves by jumping on and off a third rail on Long Island recently, H. Gernsback, editor of the Electrical Experimenter, wondered what would happen if he were to stand on the pole of a very powerful Tesla coil. He went to where there is one of the electrical testing laboratories, where there is one of the most powerful high frequency machines in
the country, giving 500,000 volts and using 20 kilowatts. This machine [throws] streams of electric fire six to seven feet long, the noise of which can be heard several blocks away. Mr. Gernsback wanted "high" terminal of the transformer, to stand on the metal plate, but the manager would not let him, for fear of an accident. He had with him, however, a live rabbit, and they let him put the bunny on that perilous spot.

"At first," writes M. Gernsback in the Electric Experimenter, "he was much frightened and jumped off the plate of about five kilowatts. Long sparks had shot out from his nose and above his eyes, and at the end of the ears. So the writer wetted the platform with water, because he thought that sparks might be jumping into the rabbit's belly and legs which insulated the fur part of his body, giving rise to stinging sparks. An improvement was seen immediately. The rabbit now held perfectly still for about twenty seconds, taking the full charge of twenty kilowatts at 500,000 volts. Long spark streamers, four or five feet long, shot from brer' rabbit's nose, ears and back and, curious to note, immediately above the eyes. Here the sparks were so hot that they singed the hair. So the writer wetted the spots above the eyes, and after that the rabbit took the full charge, never moving once for 20 seconds at a time. Long streamers came principally from the nose. After a while the rabbit seemed to enjoy the performance, and right after his seance he was as lively as ever, eating a big carrot at once."

Mr. Gernsback points out that there is a practical value in this experiment, for a charge of electricity such as the one described gives a dry bath which removes every particle of dead skin, dust and dirt and hurls them far from the body. Such electric baths also soften hardened arteries, tone up the nervous system and "make the old feel younger and the young younger and more aggressive."