A Bright History: The Life-Changing Discovery of Electricity

A woman changing a lightbulb in Moorpark, CA.

Whether you’re running a load of laundry or running your air conditioner on a hot day, it’s easy to take electricity for granted. Nonetheless, we rely on electricity on a near-constant basis and panic when we encounter a sudden power outage.

In its simplest form, electricity involves the presence or movement of electrical charges. While you likely associate this particular phenomenon with Benjamin Franklin and his kite experiment, electricity can be traced back to the ancient Greeks.

So, who discovered electricity? The discovery of electricity is more complicated — and lengthy — than you might think.

600 BC: The Discovery of Static Electricity

If you want to know when electricity was discovered, it’s vital to start at the very beginning. Thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks discovered static electricity by rubbing amber with feathers, furs, silks, and other light materials. This is considered the first documented form of electrical phenomena and is an important step in the discovery of electricity.

The Greek word for amber is “elektron.” Fast forward to the 1600s, and physician William Gilbert coined the Latin word “electricus” to describe the static electricity caused by rubbing amber together with small objects.

1700s: Shocking Electrical Advancements

When you think of who discovered electricity, you probably first think of Benjamin Franklin. However, a few key players came before Franklin that contributed to the discovery of electricity as we know it today.

Much like William Gilbert, an English scientist named Thomas Browne used the word “electricity” in the books he wrote. Additionally, in 1745, a Dutch physicist named Pieter van Musschenbroek invented the Leyden jar. This device could be used to store a significant amount of electrical charge.

Benjamin Franklin’s Memorable Experiment

It was the year 1752 when Ben Franklin performed his well-known kite and key experiment. This experiment was conducted in order to prove his idea that lightning was electricity and that electricity had positive and negative elements. During the subsequent event, Franklin used a Leyden jar to collect electricity — or, in his words, “electric fire.”

When it came to all things electrical, lightning was certainly Ben Franklin’s specialty. However, the discovery of electricity goes beyond Franklin’s breakthrough.

Early 1800s: Generating an Electrical Current

As you can already see, the discovery of electricity doesn’t simply start and end with Benjamin Franklin. In the early 1800s, Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist, invented the voltaic pile. This invention is widely considered to be the first electric battery. The voltaic pile could be used to create an electrical current.

Before the invention of the voltaic pile, Volta also improved upon the electrophorus, which is a manually-operated capacitive generator. This generator could separate positive and negative charges and produce an electrostatic charge.

Additionally, when discussing who discovered electricity, it’s crucial to mention Michael Faraday. In the early 1830s, Faraday invented the electric dynamo. This generator helped create a stable electric current.

1870s: Patenting the Light Bulb

Skipping ahead a few decades, it’s time to talk about one of the most significant electrical inventions — lightbulbs. Thanks to Faraday and his electric dynamo, Thomas Edison was able to patent the incandescent lightbulb in the United States. Edison is also credited for creating the first central power station, responsible for providing electric power to homes and commercial spaces alike.

1880s: The Inventions of Nikola Tesla

When learning who discovered electricity, it’s impossible to overlook the contributions of Nikola Tesla. Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor who created the alternating current motor and Tesla Coil. This AC motor was further developed by inventor George Westinghouse and significantly impacted society’s electricity use.

Keep Your Home’s Electrical System Running Smoothly

The history of electricity and its uses are not as straightforward as some people think. In fact, after learning who discovered electricity, you may be surprised to realize that there are more people to thank than you’d first imagined.

Now that you know how electricity was discovered, you might start to think about the importance of your electrical system. If you need a repair or replacement, RR Electric can help with your Moorpark electric services. When you take care of your electrical system, you can have peace of mind that your electricity will work when you need it most. Contact our electricians in Santa Clarita, Moorpark, and surrounding areas to learn more about our services!