Updated 09-XII-2018

John George Children

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

Portait of John George Children, in 18265

A friend of Humphry Davy's was John George Children (1777-1852)4. When the news of Volta's development of the battery reached England, J. G. Children and his father, George Children (1742-1818)3, decided to build a large battery for their own investigations. John George Children eventually published two papers1,2 that detailed the batteries built as well as the results of investigations on the application of the batteries to different metal wires. Although Volta and Davy had observed glowing wires with their batteries, the more powerful ones made by Children carried the investigations a step further. The results of heated wires obtained from their first battery apparently preceded the arc discharge observations mentioned by Davy above. Later in life Children became a zoologist and mineralogist as well as the Secretary of the Royal Society. The rare mineral Childrenite was named after him5.

In a biographical sketch of John's father, George Children, it is stated3:
"...Their principal battery consisted of twenty-one cells, each containing plates of copper and zinc, having a combined area equal to thirty-two square feet. When these plates were properly connected and immersed in acidulated water, they generated a current of electricity which was capable of producing effects considered at that time very surprising. The refractory metals, iridium and platinum, were easily fused by this current, which was able to to ignite six feet of thin platinum wire..."
Note: An extensive listing of publications by John George Children can be found in Catalog of Scientific Papers (1800-1863), Compiled by the Royal Society of London, Vol 1 (A-CLU), pp 913-914. Topics similar to References 1 and 2, in other journals, are also listed.

  1. "An Account of Some Experiments, Performed with a View to Ascertain the Most Advantageous Method of Constructing a Voltaic Apparatus, for the Purpose of Chemical Research", J. G. Children, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol.99, 1809, pp.32-38. Read 24 November 1808.
  2. "An Account of Some Experiments with a Large Voltaic Battery", J. G. Children, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol.105, 1815, pp.363-374.
  3. "George Children, Dictionary of National Biography, Vol IV, The Macmillan Co., New York, 1908, p.249.
  4. "George Children", The Encyclpaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Vol VI, 1910, pg 140.
  5. "John George Children", Wikipedia Page