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What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

Boston Museum of Science: World’s Largest Van de Graff Generator

Boston Museum of Science

Photo Credit: Museum of Science, Boston

Hooray for spring! This winter has not been especially kind, especially to Boston, which suffered a lot more snowfall than normal. But, as we found out on our trip this past summer, Boston has several indoor attractions which offer a fun day out of the house. One of them even has a “world’s largest!”

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Boston’s Museum of Science was high on our priority list, because it houses the world’s largest Van deGraff generator.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Of course, none of us knew why we should be excited about an electric generator, or anything about a Van de Graff generator in particular, but frankly, my search for “world’s largests” in Boston wasn’t very fruitful. (Although the Mapparium, a gigantic walk-through globe, was really cool!)

So in this case, we somewhat hesitantly planned to visit a generator, solely “for the love of the blog.”

Are we glad we did!

Okay, what was so cool about it?

You can see the generator at any time during your visit to the Science Center, but you’ll want to schedule the “Lightning” show in the Theater of Electricity into your day for a demonstration. During the 15-minute program, a staff member will explain its background and purpose, as well as how and why it works to generate currents. The added bonus is the sneaky lesson on electricity, and the PSA on how to avoid being struck by lightning.


Sparks fly between the generator’s two 22-foot columns.

When the generator is fired up, you have front-row seating to a lightning show. And, by the way, lightning is LOUD. Bright blue flashes of light shoot from one sphere to the other with staccato pop/whip sounds. At first, The Girl slapped her hands over her ears and cowered. But she came around quick; it was too exciting to miss any of it.

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