Shan Macdonald, Curatorial assistant for Scientific Instruments selected this object from the Hunterian Museum's collection. Shan writes - This apparatus is named after Cockcroft and Walton, who in 1932 used a similar ladder-arrangement network to power their particle accelerator.
A Cockcroft-Walton voltage multiplier works by taking initial electrical inputs and multiplying their power levels through a sequential series of capacitors and diodes. In this case, large scale selenium rectifiers were used as diodes. Like the original Cockcroft-Walton apparatus in function, these components may have been used to power Glasgow University's electron synchrotron.
In the mid-1950s Glasgow University commissioned a cutting-edge 300 MeV electron particle collider, in the basement of the Natural Philosophy building (the subject now called Physics). This enormous machine weighed in excess of 140 tons, and was housed in a purpose-built basement space with a sliding, radiation-proof ceiling. The Hunterian Museum houses a large number of components once part of the University's Cockcroft-Walton multiplier.