Electricity is a type of energy, and it may be found and “discovered” to be a part of nature, so asking who ‘invented’ electricity is technically incorrect.
There’s some debate about who exactly discovered electricity, but pinpointing the individual involved is difficult.
Benjamin Franklin gets credit for establishing the connection between lightning and electricity, and the man who gave us Frankenstein (and also happened to be his roommate) is sometimes credited with discovering electricity because of the notes he took on it.
Electrical experiments, demonstrations and inventions were not exclusively conducted by men, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta’s use of an electrical circuit practically predates Franklin’s involvement.
The unit for electric current (the ampere) is named for André-Marie Ampère, who did research in this field.
The unit used to denote the capacitance of a capacitor (the farad), however, is named after Franklin—one definition of which was that it was the amount of charge held by one mole (6.02 x 10 23 ) of electrons.
The long history of electricity’s invention
Electricity has been around for almost 2,000 years, and it was considerably more difficult than a guy flying his kite to figure out how it worked.
For thousands of years, people have found the notion of lightning to be appealing, some even considered its utility in generating use of such power.
The utilization of electricity as a source of energy was not developed until the 18th century, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that we had a basic understanding of its nature.
Electricity and lightning were first linked in China and India around 500 BC when certain “Fung Shui” practices made reference to lighting as an energy source capable of powering windmills [which is confirmed by modern science!].
Lightning is easy to see if you know how to look for it.
Our ancestors did not have the capability of looking at the world through the lens of electricity, but they did notice that something strange happened when lightning struck their villages.
Early use of thunderstones (steeped in mythology) has been recorded—the stones were used as a source of protection from lightning, acting as a talisman to guard against its power.
In ancient China and India, it was believed that the weather could be controlled with electricity.
Hindu mythology describes Rama using a thunderbolt to drive away evil forces, and there are stories about sacred priests who walked through fire but never got burned.
The Chinese were supposedly able to make artificial lightning by rubbing bamboo sticks together, the Greeks, by rubbing glass spheres of different sizes.
The Ancient Greeks discovered that rubbing fur and amber produced static electricity, which began around 600 BC.
In the 1930s, ancient Roman sites were discovered to contain copper foils in their pots, suggesting they might have been batteries used for lighting.
Other similar equipment was found at Babylonian archaeological sites, implying that ancient Persians utilized early versions of batteries as well.
In the 17th century, when positive and negative currents were first distinguished, researchers discovered that more electricity was generated when a substance was moved from one charge to another.
This is when the electrostatic generator was created, and materials were classified as insulators or conductors.
What is the history of the term “electricity”?
Willian Gilbert, an English physician, used the term Electricus in the 1660s to describe the energy that passed between materials rubbed together.
Later on, Thomas Browne, another English scientist, utilized the phrase “Electricity” to describe his findings in several books he penned.
Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning and electric sparks are essentially identical through his research with the kite experiment. In the early 1700s, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta began developing an electrical cell.
In 1733, Franklin published a study on electricity that described “vitreous” and “resinous” electricity.
In 1800, William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle developed a theory of chemical combination as a means through which electric current could pass, and in 1822 Michael Faraday discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction.
The first electrical power transmission occurred.
Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist, discovered the production of electricity as a result of certain chemical reactions in 1800.
He subsequently developed the voltaic pile, which was an electric battery in its early days, making him the first to produce a steady flow of electrical charge.
After connecting positively and negatively charged connections together with voltage or electric charge, Volta found that although the cell was able to produce a current, it only did so in one direction.
Alessandro Volta is most famous for naturalizing electricity and is often called the “Father of Electricity” and his contributions to volt (named after him).
He also developed the first battery, which was made of stacked sheets of metal that created a chemical reaction when wired together. It was then that Volta realized he could generate electricity through these chemical reactions.
However, volta’s pile burned through many hands before it was succeeded by the far more practical galvanic cell because while it allowed for electrical flow in a one-way direction, it was difficult to control.
The first electric current was created.
While attempting to address the problem of generating continuous and useful electricity, Michael Faraday developed the electrical dynamo, a rudimentary power generator in 1831, allowing electricity to be used in technology.
While it had some flaws, it utilized a magnet placed inside a copper wire coil to produce a little electric current that moved through the wire.
This laid the groundwork for future discoveries, with Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan each creating the incandescent filament light bulb in their own nations in about 1878.
Other individuals had previously developed light bulbs, but this was the first practical light bulb that could be kept lit for lengthy periods of time.
After several years of trial and error, Edison and Swan teamed up to produce the first functional filament light. In September 1882, Thomas Edison utilized his Direct Current (DC) method to light the city’s first streetlight in New York.
Tesla’s role in the invention of electricity
Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor and engineer, played an essential role in the development of commercial electricity.
After his death, he became renowned for making significant contributions to electromagnetism. He battled Marconi over a patent for the radio and made important improvements to alternating current (AC).
He’s also known for his work with alternating current (AC) electricity and his discoveries about electromagnetic waves.
After a lightning strike destroyed Edison’s direct current (DC) power station, Tesla was hired to redesign it using alternating current (AC), which he boasted would make the entire plant safer.
In 1887, Thomas Edison switched to AC as well after Tesla proved that it could carry power much greater distances. In his demonstration, Tesla showed how to deliver electricity from a power plant to individual homes.
George Westinghouse was also a figure in this regard, persuading the American public that AC would be the future.
He also acquired and developed Tesla’s patented motor to produce AC.
Andre Ampere, a French mathematician, James Watt, a Scottish inventor, and George Ohm, a German mathematician and physicist are other notable people.
After reading the entire history, it’s clear that each individual made a difference in one way or another.
When was electricity invented?
There is no easy answer to this question because electricity has been around for thousands of years but was first investigated scientifically and commercially in various timelines.
Nonetheless, over time, many great minds collaborated to “invent” electricity and make it available to the masses.
Now, let’s say electricity was never discovered or not put to use.
How would our world be different today?
We wouldn’t have appliances, light bulbs, TVs, streetlights…you name it.
And let’s ponder for a moment the things that are made possible by electricity—electricity is used in cars and planes to transport people across the globe and to run devices such as ovens and microwaves.
Our lives would be unrecognizable without electricity. The very least we can do is pay respect to those people who helped make it part of our everyday lives.