Some of the first scientific instruments and experiments, like those shown in the “Science and Sociability” exhibition in Mia’s Georgian drawing room (seen above), attempted to understand the nature and origin of electricity. George Adams, Jr.’s friction machine, for instance, from 1780, rotated a glass cylinder against a silk flap to generate and store static electricity. Benjamin Franklin, of course, went looking for electricity in lightning, reputedly with a kite in a thunderstorm. Little did these men know that they could have generated plenty of electricity just with their own tears and spit.
Scientists in Ireland have now discovered that a protein in those biological substances, as well as mucus, milk, and egg whites, can be manipulated to produce a substantial electric charge—enough to power all sorts of medical implants. Indeed, the finding could spur a greater merging of man and machine.