Magnets Bulbs and Batteries

On the radio yesterday morning were some interviews with folk that were in at the start of Ladybird Books.

Ladybird Magnets Bulbs and Batteries from Amazon

And, talking about some children that were used as models for the illustrations, one of the interviewees mentioned ‘Magnets Bulbs and Batteries’.

I had forgotten all about that title, but a copy of that Ladybird Book was one of the childhood inspirations that got me into electronics.


I also remember that the page on series connection had a string of three bulbs connected in series, and that the one nearest the positive battery terminal was the brightest, and the one nearest the negative terminal was dimmest, as I recall – so either the artist was given an odd set of bulbs, or someone thought that electricity ran out as it went around the circuit….? (looking back at the .pdf of MB&B, it must have been another book as I cannot find acolour illustration of a series circuit in there)

Some wise gentlemen have suggested taking a look at The Boy Electrician (scanned in here) and Ladybird’s Making a Transistor Radio too.

The image is taken from Amazon, where you can buy the book.

And you can download a scan of it here.



  1. And
    There is a tempting Wimshurst machine in an antique shop in my local high street,
    although not tempting enough to over-come my Scrooge-like tendencies…. .

  2. Hi Gentlemen.
    I also remember wondering what ‘soft iron’ meant. I did get as far as making an electromagnet, did string a long wire down the garden, and even made an electric shock device, but never even dared to aspire to making a Wimshurst machine.
    In my teenage years, a physics teacher dug our an ancient book of projects for me. Aimed at young people, one of them was how to build a small mains-powered induction crucible for melting lead (Pb)…. How times have changed 🙂 Now, where do I find a copy of the Boy Electrician.

    • Hi Steve,

      You can google and find download sites, the book was originally written by Alfred P. Morgan and then revised by J. W. Sims. The book goes back a long way and apparently the copyright has expired, a few years back I brought a copy off the internet, somehow the musty page smell feels appropriate. I remember the experiments with the induction coils, actually comes in quite useful now as a doctor friend of mine collects such items from the early 1900s.

  3. Ah!

    “The Boy Electrician”!

    I have two copies, one from the 1940s and another from the 1960s.

    Both excellent.

    When I contracted at Philips Semi in Soton there was a chap building a Wimshurst machine.

  4. The Ladybird book, “Making a Transistor Radio” was brilliant. It starts off with a simple crystal radio and works all the way up to a proper receiver using PNP germanium transistors. There was no soldering, just wires screwed down to a wooden breadboard. Happy days!

  5. Another great book in a similar vein is ‘The Boy Electrician’ by J. W. Sim, not a very PC title today but a superb book which really sparked my imagination as a youngster interested in electricity. You can even download this book although I recently brought a copy from abebooks. I still have the Wimshurst machine down as a project for one day when I have a little more time!

  6. Hello Steve, I too bit my teeth on that book, though Mum could never work out where to find “soft iron nails” and we didn’t have a friendly radio shop to give us an old transformer to unwind as the book suggested.

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