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An overview of when and how electricity was invented

Asking how electricity was ‘invented’ is technically not the right term to use as electricity is a form of energy, and it can be found and ‘discovered’ to be a part of nature. Pinpointing who exactly discovered electricity, however, is highly debatable. Of course, a part of this is credited to Benjamin Franklin as he was responsible for making the link between lightning and electricity, but in reality many other people in history were a part of discovering electricity.

The history of how electricity was invented

The discovery of electricity dates back to over 2000 years ago, and it was a little more complicated than a man carrying out an experiment with his kite. People for thousands of years have found the concept of lightning very appealing as some have thought of its practical aspect of being able to make use of that kind of power. The use of electricity as a source of power was picked up much later in the 18th century.

The Ancient Greeks learned that fur and amber rubbed together produced some sort of attraction which was actually static electricity and all of this started around 600 BC. In the 1930s, ancient Roman sites were found to have sheets of copper inside pots which they believe were ancient batteries used for lighting. Other similar apparatuses were also discovered in Baghdad’s archeological sites showing that early versions of batteries were used by ancient Persians too.

More electricity associated findings were made in the 17th century when positive and negative currents were first differentiated. This is when the electrostatic generator was developed, and materials were classified into the insulator and conductor categories.

how electricity was invented
Credits: South Park

 

How the word ‘electricity’ was invented

Electricus was a Latin term used in the 1600’s by Willian Gilbert, an English physician, to describe energy that transpired between materials rubbed against one another. Later on, Thomas Browne, yet another English scientist made use of the term “Electricity” to detail his discoveries in the many books he wrote.
Benjamin Franklin substantiated that lightning and electric sparks were basically one and the same thing through his experiment using a key and a kite during a stormy day in 1972.

The first electrical transmission

In the year 1800, the production of electricity, as a result of certain chemical reactions, was found by Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist. He then moved to develop the voltaic pile which was an electric battery in the early times making him the first person to manufacture a regular flow of electrical charge. With the use of positively and negatively charged connectors linked together with voltage or electric charge introduced into the setup, Volta ended up being the first to create an electrical transmission.

The first electric current

Michael Faraday, in an attempt to resolve the issue with producing electric current in a continuous and practical manner, made the electrical dynamo, a crude power generator in 1831, making electricity feasible to use in technology. While the creation was a little rough around the edges, it consisted of a magnet placed within a copper wire coil generating a small electric current moving through the wire. This, in turn, laid the foundation for future inventions as Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan each created the incandescent filament light bulb in their separate countries in about the year 1878. Other people had already invented light bulbs before this, however, this was the first functional light bulb which could actually stay lit for extended periods of time.

Later on, Edison and Swan joined forces and with a combined effort, they made the first ever functional filament lamp. In September 1882, Thomas Edison used his Direct Current (DC) system to deliver power to light the first street lamp in New York.

how electricity was invented
Credits: Giphy

 

Tesla’s contribution to how electricity was invented

Nikola Tesla, an inventor, Serbian-American engineer and a well-known electrical genius held a very important role in how commercial electricity came into being. He made groundbreaking advancements in electromagnetism later in his life and competed against Marconi to get a patent for the radio. He is also famous for the work he did with alternating current (AC), polyphase distribution system, and AC motors.
George Westinghouse was also an important personality in this regard as he convinced the American population that AC is going to be the frontrunner in the future instead of DC. He also acquired and developed the patented motor by Tesla in order to generate AC.

Other noteworthy names include Andre Ampere, a French mathematician, James Watt, a Scottish inventor, and George Ohm, a German mathematician and physicist.

When was electricity invented?

Going through the entire history it has become clear that each person every step of the way contributed one thing or the other, some more than others. ‘When was electricity invented?’ does not exactly have a straightforward answer, as the concept has existed for thousands of years but was developed in the scientific and commercial regard in different timelines. Nevertheless, an evident thing to notice from the history of how electricity evolved over the years is that many great minds combined their forces to “invent” electricity.

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