Discovery of Electricity- History, and Timeline

Discovery of Electricity

Who Discovered Electricity? What would we do without electricity today? Can we say that anyone invented electricity?  All these types of important questions about the Discovery of Electricity will be explained in this article. So read the complete article to learn the actual facts about the discovery of Electricity. It comes to this most important discovery for us.

Just imagine…without electricity, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our daily Wonder of the day! What a horrible thought!. But don’t worry, Electricity does exist in our life and makes it simple as it allows us to enjoy life in so many ways. Electricity is a form of energy and it occurs in nature since the creation of the universe. So it was not “invented.” However, It was discovered and understood. But the main question is who discovered it.?

There are so many misconceptions about it. Most people give credit to the great scientist Benjamin Franklin for the discovery of electricity. But his experiments only helped to establish the connection between lightning and electricity, nothing more. Actually, the truth about the discovery of electricity is a little bit more complex. It actually goes back more than 2000 years.

History of Electricity

The history of Electricity is more than two thousand years old. In around 600 BC, an Ancient Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus discovered that rubbing animal fur on amber (fossilized tree resin) caused an attraction force between these two. Then what the Greeks discovered was actually static electricity.

In the mid-1700s, Benjamin Franklin became interested in electricity. Up to that time, scientists had mainly known about and experimented with static electricity. Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea that electricity has positive and negative elements and that electricity flows through these elements. He believed that lightning is a form of flowing electricity.

In 1752, Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment. In order to show that lightning is a form of flowing electricity, he flew a kite during a thunderstorm. He tied a metal key to the kite string to provide a path to conduct the electricity. Just as he thought, electricity from the storm clouds transferred to the kite and flowed down the string which gave him a shock.
Benjamin Franklin's kite experiment

But one of the controversial questions is: Was Benjamin Franklin really the first person to discover electricity? Maybe not! In the year close to 1600 AD, An English physicist named William Gilbert wrote a book on the attractive nature of amber (fossilized tree resin) and used the Latin word “electricus” to describe it. Several years later, another Englishman named Sir Thomas Browne is inspired by William Gilbert. He wrote many books and in his books on physics. He came up with the word Electricity to describe his investigations based on William Gilbert’s work. So Gilbert and Browne are credited with being the first scientists to use the term “Electricity.

The first man who discovered a steady flow of electrical charge was Alessandro Volta. Around 1800 century an Italian doctor named Luigi Galvani had found that a frog’s leg twitched when it touched with two different kinds of metals. Then Volta studied Galvani’s observation and he concluded that there is a kind of electrical potential between two metals. Which causes the electrical charge to flow through the frog’s leg and makes it twitch. Volta found that, in the presence of electrical potential, an electrical charge can flow through a metal wire-like water flowing through a pipe. Then He used his observation to invent Electrical batteries.

Are you aware that different types of batteries, like AAA batteries, and transistor batteries, all have different voltages or electrical potentials? Here we have named one of the properties of electricity as electrical potential. After Alessandro Volta, AAA batteries have an electric potential of 1.5 volts, transistor batteries have 9 volts, and car batteries have an electrical potential of about 12 volts. After Alessandro Volta, many other scientists developed the theory of static and moving charges and their connection to magnetism. Among these many scientists including Michael Faraday, discovered that moving magnets move electrical charges. Also, Nikola Tesla investigated the unique consequences of charge moving backward and forward in metal wire instead of in just one direction.

Timeline of Discovery of Electricity

There is no one-word answer to Who discovered electricity?‘ The discovery of electricity is rather a chain of inventions. Lightning is the most basic form of electricity. It requires lots of great effort to bring this energy into our everyday life.

Most people give credit to Benjamin Franklin for his well-known experiment of flying a kite during a thunderstorm. So here is a complete timeline and the most notable names of scientists in the history of the discovery of Electricity.
  • In 600 BC, An Ancient Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus wrote about the charging of amber by rubbing it on animal fur and got the concept of static electricity.
  • In 1600, William Gilbert first used the Latin word “electricus” for The Greek word ‘amber’ and later translated it to the word ‘Electricity’ in English.
  • In 1660, Otto von Guericke developed a machine that produced static electricity.
  • In 1675, Robert Boyle observed that there is an electric force of attraction and repulsion which are transmitted through a vacuum.
  • In 1729, Stephen Gray’s discovery for the conduction of electricity gave a new dimension to the idea of electricity.
  • In 1733, Charles Francois du Fay found that electricity has two forms. He termed them, as resinous (-) and vitreous (+).  Later it was renamed as negative and positive by Benjamin Franklin and Ebenezer Kinnersley.
  • On 15th June 1752, Benjamin Franklin, promoted his theory, through his experiment of flying a kite during lightning. In appreciation of his work with electricity, Franklin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was honored with the Copley Medal in 1753.
  • Girolamo Cardano from Italy, first time distinguished electrical and magnetic forces through his writings.
  • Michael Faraday discovered that moving a magnet inside a coil could generate electricity. Then after he built the first electric motor. Later he also built a generator and a transformer. This became his valued contribution to the field of electromagnetism.
  • Alessandro Volta discovered that chemical reactions could be used to create a potential difference. The difference in electric potentials could lead to the flow of an electric current. The unit of potential difference has been named ‘volt’ in his honor.
  • Thomas Alva Edison made a major contribution to the harnessing of electricity. He is given credit for the discovery of the electric bulb.
  • Nikola Tesla Contributed to the design of an Electricity supply system that uses Alternating Current (AC).
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Hey, I'm Satish Gupta an Engineer by profession and blogger by passion. I am writer and founder of this blog, Here I publish contents related to Electrical and Electronics Engineering..

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