Electrical decomposition of water, 1800

Electrical decomposition of water, 1800

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Electrical decomposition of water. British chemist William Nicholson (1753-1815) and British surgeon and physicist Anthony Carlisle (1768-1841) in May 1800, making the first observation of the decomposition of water by an electric current. A small vertical tube of water was sealed and platinum wire attached to each end, connected to a battery (voltaic pile). A stream of bubbles was produced from each electrode, one gas found to be oxygen, the other hydrogen. The electric current had split the water into its elemental parts. Artwork from 'Electricite' (1911) by Max de Nansouty, part of the 'Les merveilles de la science' series of 1867-1891 by Louis Figuier.

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