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"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today -- but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
- Isaac Asimov

Leyden Ball  
  Device for hunting underwater; transfers a powerful electrical charge to the prey.  

Really the grandfather of the taser.

In this excerpt, Captain Nemo is explaining to his reluctant guest Monsieur Arronax, how it is possible to use a rifle underwater.

"Besides M. Aronnax, you must see yourself that, during our submarine hunt, we can spend but little air and but few balls."

"But it seems to me that in this twilight, and in the midst of this fluid, which is very dense compared with the atmosphere, shots could not go far, nor easily prove mortal."

"Sir, on the contrary, with this gun every blow is mortal; and, however lightly the animal is touched, it falls as if struck by a thunderbolt."


"Because the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary balls, but little cases of glass. These glass cases are covered with a case of steel, and weighted with a pellet of lead; they are real Leyden bottles, into which the electricity is forced to a very high tension. With the slightest shock they are discharged, and the animal, however strong it may be, falls dead. I must tell you that these cases are size number four, and that the charge for an ordinary gun would be ten."

From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne.
Published by Various in 1875
Additional resources -

The Leyden jar is a cylindrical container made of a dielectric (an insulator, like glass) with a layer of metal foil on the inside and outside. With the outside surface grounded, a charge is applied to the inside surface. This gives the outside an equal but opposite charge. When the outside and inside surfaces are connected by a conductor, the stored electrical energy is discharged. It was the world's first working capacitor.

Decorative mid-19th century Leyden Jars

The Leyden jar was first discovered by Ewald Georg von Kleist, a German inventor. However, Pieter van Musschenbroek of the University of Leyden discovered the Leyden jar independently in 1746 and the name remains. Find out more about the Leyden Jar at Faradnet.

The Leyden jar was used in the first atom smasher, built at Cambridge University. This device used banks of them as condensers and could store up to one million volts.

And, for those of you who long to join Captain Nemo and hunt in the ocean depths, conveniently located just outside your baroque 19th century submarine, you can get close with the Aquarius Underwater Laborator Virtual Tour (requires Ipix plug-in). Or, read more about the Captain Nemo's submarine - the Nautilus.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  More Ideas and Technology by Jules Verne
  Tech news articles related to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  Tech news articles related to works by Jules Verne

Leyden Ball-related news articles:
  - Inertial Capacitive Incapacitor: HomeSec Does Verne
  - Piezer - Homeland Security Orders Verne's 1875 'Leyden Ball'
  - Lynntech Non-Lethal Weapon - Jules Verne Right Again
  - Long Range Stunners - Again
  - TASER XREP Neuro-Muscular Incapacitation

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