Francis Hauksbee the Elder (c. 1666-1713), an English physicist who produced some of the most important early conceptual and experimental work on electricity. In 1706, he demonstrated the first static electric or frictional electric machine, a mercury-filled glass globe mounted on an axle. He called it the 'Influence Machine', and it worked by cranking a large drive wheel that spun a glass vacuum globe to create a mysterious “luminosity.” It crackled like lightning when touched and attracted metal flakes, threads, etc. This and other work by Hauksbee are thought to be the first sustained experimentations with electricity.
History of Electricity (ThinkQuest Library)