Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who Discovered Electricity

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The history of electricity goes back more than two thousand years, to the time the Ancient Greeks discovered that rubbing fur on amber caused an attraction between the two. By the 17th century, many electricity-related discoveries had been made, such as the invention of an early electrostatic generator, the differentiation between positive and negative currents, and the classification of materials as conductors or insulators. In the year 1600, English physician William Gilbert conned the term electric, from the Greek elektron, to identify the force that certain substances exert when rubbed against each other.

While many believe Benjamin Franklin to be the father of electricity, current findings seem to show otherwise. In 1752, Franklin is said to have performed the famous experiment of flying a kite during a thunderstorm, which led to the discovery that lightning and electricity were somehow related. Modern scientists know this to be something of a tall tale, since being hit by lightning would have been fatal. It's likely that Franklin was actually insulated, away from the path of lightning.

The kite experiment helped Franklin establish a relationship between lightning and electricity, which led to the invention of the lightning rod. Benjamin Franklin went on to observe other phenomena related to electricity, but many believe that he didn't actually discover its true nature.

In 1800, Italian-born physicist Alessandro Volta constructed the voltaic pile, later known as the electric battery, the first device to produce a steady electric current. It was Volta, not Franklin, who discovered that certain chemical reactions could produce electricity. Volta also created the first transmission of electricity by linking positively-charged and negatively-charged connectors and driving an electrical charge, or voltage, through them.

It wasn't until 1831 that electricity became viable for use in technology. English scientist Michael Faraday created the electric dynamo, a crude precursor of modern power generators. This invention opened the door to the new era of electricity. A few decades later, in 1879, Thomas Alva Edison invented the light bulb.
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