Gaston Plante was born on April 22, 1834 in Béarn (France). Already in school he chose physics as his specialty, and since 1855, his research interests are focused in the field of electrical phenomena.
The result of investigations 1859-1860 years. It was the invention of lead-acid batteries. Contemporaries thought that "one of this discovery would have enough to glorify the name of Plante and earn the honor and property". However, the most useful invention Plante lay not on the main direction of his research.
"Research their Plante sent to the elucidation of natural atmospheric phenomena of electricity on the experiences he had received and studied the ball 1 and other forms of lightning, saw the similarity of the northern lights, getting artificial tornadoes and cyclones, hail reproduce education, etc. So, August 18, 1876 he wrote: "The most remarkable was the lightning, which, describing a curved line, swift blow from the clouds to the ground; it was visible for a few seconds, and took the form of beads with shiny Beads "" Fig. 1.
Fig. 1. Chёtochnaya lightning observed in Paris in 1876
The study of electrical phenomena in the atmosphere was, in fact, Benjamin Franklin started in, so to speak, "natural laboratory". However, in order to investigate them thoroughly in a conventional laboratory, it was necessary to have a powerful source of high voltage in the tens or hundreds of kilovolts. Known in the middle of the XIX century. sources of electricity - galvanic cells and electrostatic machines - not entirely meet these objectives. First, even in the United batteries give more than a few kilovolts, the second - only short pulses. High voltage stress long-acting, applied in the first third of the twentieth century., Steel reostaticheskaya Machine Plant and the induction coil Ruhmkorff.
Works Plante collected in two books, one of which - "electrical phenomena in the atmosphere". Died scientist May 21, 1889, finishing a book about the nature of terrestrial magnetism. Plante was awarded the Ampere Medal and Prize Lacaze, which he spent on financial assistance to the poor scholar. 
The Rheostatic Machine Plante
The basis of the Rheostatic Machine put the properties of serial and parallel connections of capacitors.Suppose we have a battery of n identical capacitors capacitance C0 each. If charging takes place in parallel connection, the battery power isW = nC 0U 12/2. If you now disconnect from power, including capacitors in series, this same energy can be expressed as W = (C0 / n) U 2 2/2. Here, U 1, U2 - stress on the plates of the battery, with U 2 to n times the voltage charging unit U1. Fig. 2 shows the machine reostaticheskaya two capacitors. Upon rotation of the switching roller ebonite two pairs of tires alternately closing spring contacts either C and B (the capacitors are connected in parallel to each other and connected to an electrochemical cell - is being charged), or C and E (series connection of capacitors discharge - in this the time between the point of a spark arrester slipped). Increase the speed of rotation of the roller allowed the mechanical transmission of the two gears 3. The ratio of U 2 / U 1was about 2.
Fig. 2. Small machine reostaticheskaya (two capacitors, dielectric - ebonite) 
As a primary source of energy used Plante battery of electrochemical cells (800) Bunsen. EMF a Bunsen element (Fig. 3) is estimated as 1.734 in or 1.9 . Therefore, the total EMF of a battery (U 1) 1400-1500 30-40 B. capacitors with total area of 300 cm 2 the voltage in the secondary circuit (U 2) was 45-48 kV. The length of the sparks in the air were 4 cm. Surprisingly, in the middle of the XIX century. This experience served to confirm the unified nature of the electricity generated and the galvanic cell, and electrostatic machine (a fact that 150 years later, it seems obvious). Evidence of the truth of the situation was known, entered in the science of Newton: "The same causes produce the same actions."
Fig. 3. Element Bunsen. Electrode "+" - coal in a solution of H2 SO4, "-" - zinc in concentrated HNO3
Electric Fountain. The vessel with salt water, in the middle, half sunk very short, about 3 mm capillary tube (Fig. 6) and lowered the platinum wire from the positive pole reostaticheskoy machines (800 elements Bunsen), and inside the tube was introduced on 1 mm platinum wire from the negative pole. When the car is driven, in a narrow channel tube, an electric breakdown, and sparks flying out swiftly and with a loud noise, carried along the water, forming a fountain height of about one meter. If you change the polarity, it also formed a fountain, but his jet was scattered and not as high .
Fig. 6. Electric Fountain
Electric tide. In a glass vessel filled with salt water, dipped a platinum wire, connected to the negative pole reostaticheskoy machine (Fig. 7, as well); the other wire was fed from the positive pole to the inner wall of the vessel. When the voltage from the wall of the vessel on the surface went waves and emerging jet of steam, followed by illumination at a height of about 1.5 cm. The very fluid came in great excitement. If the vessel was shallow and flat (Fig. 7 b ), in the upper voltage distribution it has a strong uneven and there was "a rush."
Fig. 7. Electric tide
Mechanical action in these experiments is a joint thermal and chemical action - saline effervescence occurs electrolysis appearing steam exerts pressure on the upper layer of the liquid, thereby causing a lateral extruding wave upward.
Electric glowing balls. If the experiment shown in Fig. 7, and was performed at low voltages (below 100 V) and the negative electrode dipped in shallow water, the positive electrode formed near the water luminous bulb, Fig. 8. If the positive pole slowly pulls back the ball noticeable crackling quickly rotate, zoom in diameter (up to 1 cm), flatten and eventually burst.
Fig. 8. Electrical glowing balls
The shape of the discharge has prompted researchers to suggest that the observed glow has fireball. Plante put similar experience with distilled water and reostaticheskuyu machine connects to a battery of 800 Bunsen elements. Approached the negative pole to the surface of the water, Plante received a yellow tulip flame about 2 cm in diameter (Fig. 9). Platinum wire melts to form a closed arc of the water column, the electric current subsided, and the glow took the form of a ball with a diameter of about 1 cm. When moving away of the negative electrode was observed a series of consecutive figures (Fig. 10) from the water arose ball of light with glowing blue dots, which gradually began to rotate at an increasing rate, and the viewer seemed luminous concentric circles.Continuing research, Plante got between two horizontal electrodes in the form of two cartons of wet spinning and improperly moving fireball. Based on this, he explained the appearance of a fireball when approaching thundercloud when a cloud and the earth charged oppositely, as the rain turned the discharge of linear lightning, yet . Discoveries in the field of spectroscopy, Bunsen and Kirchhoff made it possible to investigate the composition of Plante observed discharge: it consisted of water vapor and its components.
Fig. 9. Electrical spherical flame
Fig. 10. The glow at high voltage
The cycle of works that had G.Plante, encompass all the elements of classical studies in the field of physics: the observation of natural phenomena, the creation of instruments for research in a laboratory setting laboratory experiment, study of the phenomenon in the laboratory, and finally, try to explain it. We can say that this was the first attempt to build a complete science-based model of ball lightning. After half a century, it became clear that the phenomenon of ball lightning more complicated."G.Plante phenomenon was somewhat reminiscent of a fireball plunging strong negative electrode battery to water or salt solution and touching the water surface. When the pole was somewhat elevated, then it is separated from the glowing ball that slides along the surface of the water. However, the similarity of two random phenomena can not attach importance to, and you can not build an explanation of ball lightning, based on the experiences G.Plante ". External similarity of phenomena - a factor that can both assist in the promotion of research, and brake it.
The mystery of ball lightning is still not resolved. "The problem is the study of ball lightning can be divided into the following parts:a) the formation of ball lightning; b) storage and conversion of its energy in) stability of the quasi-stationary state, and the mechanisms of death". This produced and systematized observation instruments designed to play ball lightning in the lab, we study its composition, ie scientific works are generally in the same direction in which he worked G.Plante, but at the present level of knowledge.