In modern chemistry textbooks, a DC source (battery symbol) is usually shown for cathode ray tube experiments by Thomson and others. Certainly, no battery can provide very high voltages needed for gas discharge experiments. Similarly, Roentgen needed high voltage sources for X-ray experiments. What type of devices did these early physicists use for conducting their experiments? Youtube has several educational videos known as Ruhmkorff coils, but it seems that they are discontinuous sources. Not sure if discontinuous sources were useful for cathode ray experiments or measuring e/m ratio. Is anyone aware of the names of such devices which powered cathode ray tubes used by early physicists? Thanks.
In order to obtain a nonpulsating power source some early investigators used Wimshurst or similar static electricity generators, or batteries of many small storage cells.
I believe batteries were used to generate several hundred volts in the early days. They were called Voltaic piles. Davy used a 2000-pair pile made for the Royal Institution in 1808. I believe that would produce a voltage in excess of 2000 volts. Voltaic piles were the source of choice until dynamos and alternators were invented.