1840 Battery: Oxford Electric Bell

Personally, I would like to know why we have the following line (below red) in the wiki description of this 179 year old power source. The thing is still producing power:
  • The exact composition of the dry piles is unknown, but it is known that they have been coated with molten sulphur for insulation and it is thought that they may be Zamboni piles.
  • Smithsonian, "We hope they leave the Oxford Electric Bell under its dome, when it finally rings for the last time."
    • The Smithsonian Institute agrees, however, it cannot investigate further because this would ‘ruin an experiment to see how long it would last’. It cites an opinion the piles ‘use alternating discs of silver, zinc, sulfur, and other materials to generate low currents of electricity’.
battery-powered-bell-at-oxford-university.jpg

Found this link in my e-mail yesterday. Did some related Googling. Here is what we have.

Oxford Electric Bell
The Clarendon Dry Pile was purchased by Robert Walker (Professor of physics 1839 - 1865) and bears the label in his handwriting "Set up in 1840", though a later note indicates that it may have been constructed some 15 years earlier. It consists of two voltaic "dry-piles", covered with an insulating layer of sulphur, connected in series and, at their lower ends, to two bells. Between the bells is suspended a metal sphere about 4mm in diameter which is attracted alternately by the bells and transfers charge from one to the other. The frequency of its oscillation is about 2Hz; so far the bells have been rung of the order of 10 billion times.


The internal construction of the piles themselves remains a matter for conjecture, but records of similar popular curiosities of the period e.g. Zamboni piles, indicate that they are probably of alternate layers of metal foil and paper coated with manganese dioxide.
  • Some published reports of the Pile unfortunately refer to it as an example of perpetual motion but the Guinness Book of Records has it under the "worlds most durable battery" delivering "ceaseless tintinnabulation". It is seen but not heard as the ringing is muffled, in the ground floor display cabinet near the main entrance of the Clarendon Laboratory.
Sources:


The contraption was purchased in 1840 by a clergyman-physicist named Robert Walker. But who made it?
  • 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. His handwritten notice, 'Set up in 1840', was attested by his grandson.
  • A London instrument-manufacturing firm named Watkins and Hill built the oxford bell in 1825, and a note could be found attached, in Robert Walker’s own handwriting "Set up in 1840."
    • Built in 1825. This makes it what? 194 years old and the thing is still running?
Wiki article chose not to mention the alleged Watkin and Hill company. Sounds like Mr. Watkin and Mr. Hill were pretty smart guys:


KD: This entire story is utterly ridiculous. For God knows how long we have this "mysterious" power source. Nobody (allegedly) knows what's inside, and nobody is eager to find out. Really?
  • Smithsonian is so full of sh*t with their "cannot investigate further because this would ruin an experiment to see how long it would last"
...from the 1839 book above...
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