|MadSci Network: Science History|
I was unable to find much information on the web. Von Jolly's experiment is briefly described here. What you are wanting to know, though, is more about the lead ball: more of a social/industrial question relating to the 19th century: how expensive was lead then? how was it worked? how wasteful or otherwise was this particular piece of science? I do not have specific information about von Jolly's lead ball. Lead has been worked since before Roman times. It is a soft metal that melts at a low temperature. It corrodes somewhat with continued exposure to air. It is easily cast, rolled, or beaten. Any lead object that is no longer useful can easily be reworked by melting. Although fairly rare, lead has never been particularly expensive, and, relatively speaking, it probably cost rather less in the mid 19th century than it does today. I have no specific price information for the 1800s. In 1932 lead cost around $US 60 per ton; by 1948 the figure was around $US 500 per tonne. It is more expensive now, of course. Late in the 19th century lead prices went up as the supply of high grade ores deteriorated. New methods of extraction and concentration of ores (flotation methods) became available early in the 20th century, and the prices went back down accordingly. The bottom line, though, is that it was not hugely expensive, and probably comfortably within von Jolly's research budget (or its 19th century equivalent!) A large lead sphere like the one von Jolly used was almost certainly cast in a mould. The sphere would have been just under 1 metre in diameter. It doesn't sound terribly useful for other purposes: too big for a cannon ball. A bad shape for ship's ballast. You would not want ballast rolling around! Probably it was either kept for later physics experiments, or melted down for other purposes.
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