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To understand the physics behind a homopolar motor, first and foremost you have to understand that besides the electric current in a current-carrying wire there is also a magnetic current (which the contemporary science calls magnetic field). The two currents are inseparably bound to each other very similar to the water swirling current and the cavitation spiral current which an underwater propeller creates. The water swirling current corresponds to the electric current, whereas the cavitation spiral current corresponds to the magnetic current. Watch the cavitation spiral current in this short
In 1861, James Clerk-Maxwell published Part II of his four-part series 'On physical lines of force'. In it, he attempted to construct a vortex model of the magnetic field but after much effort neither he, nor other late nineteenth century physicists who followed him, managed to produce a workable theory. What survived from these attempts were Maxwell's four equations of electrodynamics together with the Lorentz force law, formulae that made no attempt to describe an underlying reality but stood only as a mathematical description of the observed phenomena. When the quantum of action was introdu