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Mock-up of Constantin-Manganin thermocouple, Europe, 1945-1955

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When heated the two coils of metal (manganin and constantin) shown in this cut away dewar flask, are heated an electric current is produced. This piece of equipment is known as a thermocouple. It is shown here in a set of equipment similar to the one used by A V Hill (1886–1977), a physiologist who researched animal heat and energy exchanges in nerve and muscle from 1910 onwards. It is typical of the set up he used in the 1950s in his laboratory at University College London. An isolated muscle is placed on coils of wire and connected to an electrical stimulus, controlled by a switch. The muscle is also attached to the kymograph to record when the muscle contracts. When the muscle is stimulated, heat is produced and transferred to the thermocouple.The thermocouple is attached to a galvanometer to record the electric current produced.

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Glossary: physiology

The science of the functioning of living organisms and their component parts.

Glossary: dewar flask

a double-walled flask of metal or silvered glass with a vacuum between the walls, used to hold liquids at well below ambient temperature, named after Sir James Dewar (1842–1923), Scottish chemist and physicist.

Glossary: thermocouple

Device that can generate an electrical current proportional to the amount of heat to which it is exposed. Thermocouples are a widely used temperature sensor in electrical engineering and industry.