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Pieter van Musschenbroek
P v Musschenbroek t-E.jpg
1741 portrait of Pieter van Musschenbroek
Born (1692-03-14)14 March 1692
Died 19 September 1761(1761-09-19) (aged 69)
Leiden, Dutch Republic
Nationality Dutch
Alma mater Leiden University
Known for Leyden jar, Tribometer, Atmometer
Scientific career
Fields Physics, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, astronomy
Doctoral advisor Wolferd Senguerd
Herman Boerhaave
Notable students Andreas Cunaeus

Pieter van Musschenbroek (14 March 1692 – 19 September 1761) was a Dutch scientist. He was a professor in Duisburg, Utrecht, and Leiden, where he held positions in mathematics, philosophy, medicine, and astronomy. He is credited with the invention of the first capacitor in 1746: the Leyden jar. He performed pioneering work on the buckling of compressed struts. Musschenbroek was also one of the first scientists (1729) to provide detailed descriptions of testing machines for tension, compression, and flexure testing. An early example of a problem in dynamic plasticity was described in the 1739 paper (in the form of the penetration of butter by a wooden stick subjected to impact by a wooden sphere).

An early 20th-century illustration of a Leyden jar.

In 1739, he returned to Leiden, where he succeeded Jacobus Wittichius as professor.

Already during his studies at Leiden University Van Musschenbroek became interested in electrostatics. At that time, transient electrical energy could be generated by friction machines but there was no way to store it. Musschenbroek and his student Andreas Cunaeus discovered that the energy could be stored, in work that also involved Jean-Nicolas-Sébastien Allamand as collaborator. The apparatus was a glass jar filled with water into which a brass rod had been placed; and the stored energy could be released only by completing an external circuit between the brass rod and another conductor, originally a hand, placed in contact with the outside of the jar. Van Musschenbroek communicated this discovery to René Réaumur in January 1746, and it was Abbé Nollet, the translator of Musschenbroek's letter from Latin, who named the invention the 'Leyden jar'.

Soon afterwards, it transpired that a German scientist, Ewald von Kleist, had independently constructed a similar device in late 1745, shortly before Musschenbroek.

In 1754, he became an honorary professor at the Imperial Academy of Science in Saint Petersburg. He was also elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1747.

Van Musschenbroek died on 19 September 1761 in Leiden.

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