Clarendon Laboratory Bell At Oxford University: What Is It? How Does It Work? (2023)

Table of Contents

  • History of the Battery
  • The Oxford Electric Bell
  • How does the Oxford Electric Bell work?
  • Conclusion
  • Suggested Reading

The Oxford Electric Bell, set up in 1840 and constructed in 1825, has been ringing for nearly 179 years and has rung more than 10 billion times.

When I first heard about a battery that had lasted for over 179 years, my immediate thought was… what if we had a battery like that for our mobile devices? Imagine how many hours we could spend mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or watching cute dog videos on Youtube!The possibilities would be endless…

However, before Ifantasized for too long about this game-changing battery,I was notified of a slight problem, namely that neither the scientists nor the owners of the battery know what it’s really made of.What we’re describing is the battery powering the electric bell at the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University.

Clarendon Laboratory Bell At Oxford University: What Is It? How Does It Work? (1)

The Oxford Electric Bell, Originally set up in 1840, has been continuously ringing for over 179 years.

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History of the Battery

It all started whenLuigi Galvani,an Italian physicist, accidentally discovered bioelectricity in the 1780s. Luigi was dissecting a dead frog with some metal tools and noticed something strange. Whenever he struck the frog’s nerves with the metal tools, the frog’s legs flexed. He first attributed this strange behavior to vital fluid, which is linked to an old theory of biology that is no longer accepted in the field. Later on, he changed his mind and said that it must instead be animal electricity.

(Video) The Battery That's Lasted 176 Years

Clarendon Laboratory Bell At Oxford University: What Is It? How Does It Work? (2)

Galvani used toolscomposed of different materials to dissect the frog. These tools acted as the electrodes, while the nerve functioned as the electrolyte. (Photo Credit : Luigi Galvani/Wikimedia Commons)

Another Italian physicist,Alessandro Volta, heard of Galvani’s experiment and suggested that both theories were wrong. He believed the legs twitched merely because the nerve acted as an electrolyte, while the electricity was actually generateddue to the difference in materials of the tools being used. Volta later proved his theory by creating the first-ever chemical battery in 1800.

The battery was made by piling up discs of copper (or silver) and zinc sandwiched between cardboard discs soaked in brine (or sulfuric acid with water). The battery was called a “Voltaic Pile” or “Dry Pile“. Volta, with the invention of the Voltaic pile, helped to debunk the prevalent theory that electricity is only generated by living beings. However, the battery Volta created had a few disadvantages. It was dangerous to handledue to the sulphuric acid and the power of the cell also diminished after an hour or two.

Clarendon Laboratory Bell At Oxford University: What Is It? How Does It Work? (3)

The Voltaic Pile, also referred to as a Dry Pile, consisted of a number of discs of zinc and copper sandwiched between cardboard discs soaked in brine or sulphuric acid. (Photo Credit : Gillard/Wikimedia Commons)

Giuseppe Zamboni, another Italian physicist, improvedthe Voltaic Pile and invented his very own battery, the Zamboni Pile, in 1812. The Zamboni Pileutilizes a number of paper discs coated withzincfoil on one side andmanganese dioxideon the other. The moisture of the paper discs acts as an electrolyte.

By bringing the terminal ends of the Zamboni Pile close together, and suspending a metal ball between them, an arrangement called an electrostatic clock is formed. The arrangement is called a clock because the metal ball oscillating between the terminals looks like a pendulum. The Oxford Electric Bell has an identical setup to that of an electrostatic clock.

Clarendon Laboratory Bell At Oxford University: What Is It? How Does It Work? (4)

The red and blue ball-like structures are the terminals of the Zamboni Pile. This setup is called a clock because the oscillating motion of the metal ball makes it look like a pendulum

(Video) Oxford Electric Bell Replica

Fast forward to 1825, when London-based instrument makers Watkins and Hill created the Oxford electric bell and the batterytopower it. Although created just 25 years after Volta invented the first-ever chemical battery, this battery has outlived every other battery ever made. In fact, this battery currently holds the Guinness World Record for the “Most Durable Battery“.

The Oxford Electric Bell

Created by Watkins and Hill in 1825, the electric bell was brought to Oxford University by ReverendRobert Walker in 1840. The bell currently sits on a shelf in the foyer of the Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford University. The label placed near the bell reads “Set up in 1840” in Robert Walker’s handwriting. Another label reads “Demonstration Dry Pile Purchased 1840”.

Clarendon Laboratory Bell At Oxford University: What Is It? How Does It Work? (5)

The Oxford Electric Bell sits on a shelf in the Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford University with two labels. One by Robert Walker himself, and another indicating the year of purchase. (Photo Credit : DavidCWG /Wikimedia Commons)

The bell setup consists of a spherical metal clapper that oscillates between two small bells. The metal clapper is approximately 4mm in diameter. The metal clapper is powered by the battery placed above the bells. The battery is believed to be a dry pile battery with a paste inside it. This paste contains the minimum amount of water required for the electrolyte to work. A coating of solid sulfur keeps the water inside and helps avoid any leakages. Beyond this, we don’t really know what materials or components are inside the body of the battery.

Now, coming to the most important question… how has such an old battery lasted for so long?

How does the Oxford Electric Bell work?

Since we don’t know about the exact interior of the Oxford Electric Bell, there’s only one way for us to answer this question. We must do what scientists always seem to be doing—assuming.

By looking at battery diagrams from around the same time that this one was constructed,back in the 1820s, the battery can be assumed to be a Zamboni pile with around 2000 or more discs composed of zinc and magnesium dioxide. All 2000 discs would be stacked one on top of the other. These 2000 discs create a massive voltage of approximately 2 kilovolts between the two bells.Mind you, that is 16 times greater than America’s main supply voltage. [I’m not sure of America’s main supply voltage. Some websites show it to be 110V, while others set it at 220V], butthe metal clapper takes only 1 nano-amp of current each time it rings.

This tiny current requirement of the clapper and massive amount of available voltage is probably why the Oxford Electric Bell is still ringing. In the 179 years since its inception, the bell has rung more than 10 billion times. Yes, you read it right. Billion… with the Big B.

Clarendon Laboratory Bell At Oxford University: What Is It? How Does It Work? (6)

One Eternity later and still ringing!

(Video) Oxford Electric Bell

To know exactly what the battery is made of, we would have to cutit open and end the bell’s 179-year-long run, but opening the apparatus would also ruin the experiment and prevent us from seeing how much longer it will last.


The bell has now been placed behind two panes of glass todampen its continuous ringing. “How long will the Oxford Electric Bell continue ringing?” and “What is the battery inside made of?” are two of the most burning questions in the scientific community. People believe that the bell will eventually stop when the clapper breaks because of wear and tearthroughout its prolonged lifetime.

In 1841, just a year after being set up, Watkins and Hill wrote in a letter:

“The residual electrical power sufficient to keep up the ringing of the bells seldom lasts for longer than three or four years. It is a pretty apparatus but also transient in its working process”

They would have been proud to learn just how wrong they were, and I’m sure they are smiling down from the stars with pride to hear their bell still ringing in all its glory.

Suggested Reading

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How does the Oxford bell work? ›

When the clapper touches one bell, it is charged by that pile. It is then repelled from that bell due to having the same charge and attracted to the other bell, which has the opposite charge. The clapper then touches the other bell and the process reverses, leading to oscillation.

How long has the Oxford Electric Bell been working? ›

The Oxford Electric Bell, or Clarendon Dry Pile, has been ringing for at least 179 years. It's kept at Oxford University where it has been (now inaudibly) ringing since 1840. It may be 19th century technology, but that's the kind of battery life your phone can only dream of.

Is the Oxford Electric Bell still ringing? ›

Today, 175 years after it was manufactured, the Oxford Electric Bell, as it is often referred to, is still ringing—in fact, it is said to have rung over 10 billion times.

Who made the Oxford Electric Bell? ›

In the foyer of the Clarendon Laboratory in the University of Oxford is an electric bell which has been ringing almost continuously since it was brought and first displayed in 1840. It was made by Watkin and Hill, instrument makers, of London, and purchased by the Rev. Robert Walker, Reader in Experimental Philosophy.

How much do Oxford tutors get paid? ›

Average University of Oxford Tutor yearly pay in the United Kingdom is approximately £43,687, which is 71% above the national average. Salary information comes from 18 data points collected directly from employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.

Why can't you walk on the grass at Oxford? ›

Walking on the grass

Oxford has another hallowed rule prohibiting students from stepping on the grass in quadrangles. The green and lush lawns of the colleges you observe are due to the policy Oxford has maintained for centuries of allowing only professors to step on the grass.

How often does the Oxford Electric Bell ring? ›

Currently located in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford, the Bell is an experiment consisting of two brass bells each stationed beneath a dry pile battery, with a metal sphere (or 'clapper') swinging between them to produce a ring that has occurred on the order of 10 billion times.

Who works electric bell? ›

What is the working principle of an electric bell? The primary working principle behind an electric bell is electromagnetism or magnetic effect of electric current. It is the property of conductors to act like a magnet when an electric current is passed through them.

What is the longest running battery? ›

Known as the #1 long-lasting batteries on the market, Energizer Ultimate Lithium AAA batteries are designed to hold up during rigorous work use, home use, and play use.

Do bell ringers go deaf? ›

Church bells create sound with a large sound pressure level that can be heard from a great distance. However, despite the characteristics of the sound of church bells, bell ringers do not present symptoms of occupational hearing loss unlike musicians and construction workers.

Why does the bell ring at 6pm? ›

Many Catholic Christian churches ring their bells thrice a day, at 6 am, 12 pm, and 6 pm to call the faithful to recite the Angelus, a prayer recited in honour of the Incarnation of God.

Why does the bell ring at 12pm? ›

Commemorating the Victory Against the Turks

Well, history says that during the siege Pope Callixtus III asked all Catholic kingdoms in Europe to pray for the victory of the defenders. He ordered every church to toll the bells every day at noon, as a reminder for the prayers.

What is the thing that hits the bell called? ›

clapper Add to list Share. The tongue of a bell — the part inside that swings to make the bell ring — is called the clapper. The Liberty Bell cracked the first time the clapper struck the sides of the bell.

When electric bell was invented? ›

The interrupter bell evolved from various oscillating electromechanical mechanisms which were devised following the invention of the electromagnet by William Sturgeon in 1823. One of the first was the oscillating electric wire invented by James Marsh in 1824.

Is it hard to get a job at Oxford? ›

Candidates give an average difficulty score of 3.2 out of 5 (where 5 is the highest level of difficulty) for their job interview at Oxford University.

What kind of tutors make the most money? ›

High Paying Tutoring Jobs
  • Spanish Tutor. ...
  • English Tutor. ...
  • Private Tutor. ...
  • Algebra Tutor. ...
  • Elementary Math Tutor. Salary range: $35,500-$54,000 per year. ...
  • Reading Tutor. Salary range: $34,000-$52,000 per year. ...
  • Tutor. Salary range: $31,000-$52,000 per year. ...
  • Math Coach. Salary range: $37,500-$51,000 per year.

Which University pays their professors the most? ›

Top Average Salaries for Full Professors at Private Universities, 2019-20
1. Columbia University$268,400
4. Harvard University$253,900
5. University of Chicago$246,100
6. Yale University$242,200
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology$240,400
5 more rows
8 Apr 2020

Can you walk around Oxford University for free? ›

Alumni, prospective students and Bodleian Card holders are welcome to visit the College for free between 14:00 and 17:00 provided the College is open. We recommend calling in advance to check the College is open and whether there will be restrictions on where you can visit. The College is currently closed to tourists.

Are phones allowed in Oxford University? ›

Almost all students bring at least one digital device to Oxford, mainly a laptop and/or a smartphone.

Can poor people go to Oxford? ›

Oxford is determined that all students who are offered a place to study here can afford to come. Very few costs are paid up front, and there is lots of financial support available for UK students, from the government, the University and a student's college.

What is the purpose of bell ringing? ›

The bitter-sweet sound of just one bell or the majesty of a whole peal, has become part of the English heritage and much of the country's history can be traced through the history of its bells. They call us to wake, to pray, to work, to arms, to feast and, in times of crisis, to come together.

What are electric bells used for? ›

An electric bell is a mechanical or electronic bell that functions by means of an electromagnet. When an electric current flows through the coils, the electromagnet creates a magnetic field which pulls the armature towards it, causing the hammer to strike the bell.

How does a trembler bell work? ›

The Trembler Bell

When the bell push is operated, the electromagnet is energized and the iron armature is attracted into it, causing the striker to hit the gong. This action, however, breaks the circuit via the N/C ( normally closed ) contact and the electromagnet de-energises.

What is the cost of electric bell? ›

Door Bell - Price Range
Door BellMin PriceMax Price
GM Door Bell₹164₹357
Module - 1 Door Bell₹1111₹6422
Module - 1 M Door Bell₹128₹182
Module - 1m Door Bell₹109₹141
4 more rows

What energy does bell use? ›

Hence the energy conversion taking place in an electric bell is electrical energy to sound energy. Q.

What is the symbol for a bell? ›

It can be referred to as control-G or ^G in caret notation. Unicode also includes a character for the visual representation of the bell code, "symbol for bell" (␇) at U+2407 , and graphic for the control code (⍾) at U+237E .

What kills the battery the most? ›

Avoid situations where your phone can overheat, especially when your battery is fully charged. Your battery drains much faster when it's hot, even when not in use. This kind of drain can damage your battery. You don't need to teach your phone the battery's capacity by going from full charge to zero, or zero to full.

Which brand of battery is the best? ›

The best AA batteries you can buy in 2022
  1. Energizer Ultimate Lithium: The longest-lasting AA battery. ...
  2. Amazon Basics Performance Alkaline: The best budget battery. ...
  3. Energizer Alkaline Power: The best everyday battery. ...
  4. Duracell Optimum: The best Alkalines for high-drain devices. ...
  5. Duracell Plus: A great all-rounder.
2 days ago

Can a battery last 100 years? ›

Tesla's advanced battery research department in Canada, in collaboration with Dalhousie University, has published a new article on a novel nickel-based battery that might last 100 years while charging and storing energy more efficiently than LFP cells.

Do the bell ringers get paid? ›

Average The Salvation Army Bell Ringer hourly pay in the United States is approximately $11.31, which is 6% above the national average.

How does a deaf person know when the phone is ringing? ›

Equipment & Technology Signalers

Signalers are devices to alert people to audible warnings. These devices alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing to a telephone ring, a doorbell, a baby crying, fire/smoke alarms, timers, alarm clocks, pagers, etc. Signalers are used in the home and on the job.

How difficult is bell ringing? ›

The initial period of learning to handle a bell is about as hard as learning to drive a car: some will find that it comes naturally, whilst others will take longer, but almost anyone of moderate fitness can learn. After that, it is up to you.

What do you call the bell that rings when you open the door? ›

(dɔːʳbel ) Word forms: plural doorbells. countable noun. A doorbell is a bell on the outside of a house which you can ring so that the people inside know that you want to see them.

What is the ringing of a bell immediately after a death called? ›

A death knell is the ringing of a church bell immediately after a death to announce it. Historically it was the second of three bells rung around death, the first being the passing bell to warn of impending death, and the last was the lych bell or corpse bell, which survives today as the funeral toll.

Why do you ring the bell 3 times? ›

Following Le Moyne, bells started popping up in treatment centers across the U.S., and the tradition of ringing a bell three times after a patient completes their rounds of radiation and/or chemotherapy was born.

Do the bells Ring when the Queen dies? ›

Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Church bells will ring out at Westminster Abbey in memory of the Queen. The tenor bells at Westminster Abbey will ring out for 96 minutes - one for each year of the Queen's life - before the service begins at 11am.

Why do the bells ring 49 times? ›

The First United Methodist Church of Orlando rang its bell 49 times Sunday -- one chime each in honor of the 49 people who died in the 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub.

Why do they ring the bell 108 times? ›

At each temple, the bells sound 108 times in a Buddhist ritual called joya no kane that represents the cleansing of 108 worldly passions.

How far can a bell be heard? ›

"Bells are the leading musical instruments made of metal. The peals of big ones can be heard five kilometers away and the strokes of small ones can reach places half a kilometer off.

What is metal piece inside a bell called? ›

A clapper is a metal part shaped to hit the inside of the bell to create the sound when the bell is rung.

How does a bell sound work? ›

When the clapper strikes, the bell begins to move quickly back and forth or vibrate and push the molecules in the air back and forth to form sound 'waves'. Sound needs a medium to travel through, such as air which is made up of molecules that vibrate and conduct the sound.

What are types of electric bell? ›

Types of electric bells

Single stroke bells-They are used in railway stations. They produce a loud sound only once when struck with the hammer. Telephones-Telephones make use of a polarized bell, which usually operate on 60-105 Volts. Buzzers-Their working principle is similar to that of the interrupter bell.

What type of magnet is used in an electric bell? ›

An electromagnet is a type of magnet in which the magnetic field is produced by an electric current. The magnetic field disappears when the current is turned off. Electromagnets usually consist of a large number of closely spaced turns of wire that create the magnetic field. In electric bell we use electromagnets.

How often does the Oxford electric bell ring? ›

Currently located in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford, the Bell is an experiment consisting of two brass bells each stationed beneath a dry pile battery, with a metal sphere (or 'clapper') swinging between them to produce a ring that has occurred on the order of 10 billion times.

How does a trembler bell works? ›

The Trembler Bell

When the bell push is operated, the electromagnet is energized and the iron armature is attracted into it, causing the striker to hit the gong. This action, however, breaks the circuit via the N/C ( normally closed ) contact and the electromagnet de-energises.

Do you have to move out every term at Oxford? ›

The colleges use student rooms over the vacations (Oxford jargon for the time between terms). This makes them money (and keeps your rent down) and also lets them accommodate interview candidates in December. So if you live in college accommodation, you normally have to move out three times a year.

What is the difference between a bell and a buzzer? ›

An electric buzzer uses a similar mechanism to an interrupter bell, but without the resonant bell. They are quieter than bells, but adequate for a warning tone over a small distance, such as across a desktop. A buzzer or beeper is an audio signalling device, which may be mechanical, electromechanical, or piezoelectric.

What is the vibrating part of school bell? ›

The disc of the bell when beated with hammer vibrate to produce sound.

Which type of magnet is used in electric bell? ›

A permanent magnet is used in an electric bell.

What sound does bell give? ›

The sound of bells ringing, like church bells on a Sunday morning, can be called tintinnabulation. You can describe similar sounds that way, too — like the telephone's tintinnabulation or the tintinnabulation of your sister's silver bracelets tinkling together as she walks.

What does a bell sound make? ›

When a bell is struck, the metal vibrates. The vibrations travel through the air as sound waves. When these waves reach our ears, they make our eardrums vibrate, and we hear the sound of the bell ringing. Sound always needs to travel through some kind of medium, such as air, water, or metal.

What is the retirement age at Oxford University? ›

With effect from 1 October 2023 the EJRA is set at the 30 September preceding an individual's 70th birthday.

What happens if you dont meet Oxford offer? ›

Your department and college will also send you all the information you need regarding their services and timetable ready for your arrival in Oxford. Please note that if you do not meet the conditions of your offer by the deadlines set by the department and the college, you will not be able to enrol at the University.

How many hours do Oxford students study? ›

All our undergraduate courses are full-time, and on average our students spend around 40 hours a week studying. Every student will manage their time differently, making sure they can fit in all their studies, hobbies and interests.


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