The electrical boy was a favorite eighteenth-century experiment, often performed as entertainment. Such experiments were in part pioneered by Hooke's successor as the curator of experiments at the Royal Society. The second curator, Francis Hauksbee, was under the patronage of Isaac Newton, now the Royal Society's president. Electrical experiments often referred to Newton's late suggestions of a subtle conducting fluid of the ether.
This engraving is taken from William Watson's 1748 work. A rotating crank generates electricity which is transferred to the shoes of a boy suspended on silk ropes. The boy in turn transmits a genteel shock to the girl who is standing on a tar-covered barrel. Her other hand is probably extended to attract feathers or small pieces of paper.