How Was Electricity Discovered?
How Was Electricity Discovered? Scientists have found evidence that ancient peoples may have experimented with electricity, too. In 1936, a clay pot was discovered that suggests that the first batteries may have been invented over 2,000 years ago. The clay pot contained copper plates, tin alloy, and an iron rod. It could have been used to create an electric current by filling it with an acidic solution, like vinegar.
Since electricity is a natural force that exists in our world, it didn’t have to be invented. It did, however, have to be discovered and understood. Most people give credit to Benjamin Franklin for discovering electricity. In 1752, Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment. In order to show that lightning was electricity, he flew a kite during a thunderstorm. He tied a metal key to the kite string to conduct the electricity.
Just as he thought, electricity from the storm clouds transferred to the kite and electricity flowed down the string and gave him a shock. He’s lucky that he didn’t get hurt, but he didn’t mind the shock since it proved his idea.
Building upon Franklin’s work, many other scientists studied electricity and began to understand more about how it works. Michael Faraday, Luigi Galvani, Alessandro Volta, Andre-Marie Ampere, and Georg Ohm did work that provided the basis for modern electrical engineering.
Italian physician Girolamo Cardano returned to the subject of electricity in De Subtilitate (1550) distinguishing, perhaps for the first time, between electrical and magnetic forces.
At the turn of the 17th century, English scientist William Gilbert established the science underlying the study of electricity and magnetism. Inspired by Gilbert’s work, another Englishman, Sir Thomas Browne, made further investigations and wrote books about his findings. Gilbert and Browne are credited with being the first scientists to use the term “electricity.”
In 1700 the English scientist William Gilbert, coined the modern Latin word ‘electricus’ from ‘elektron’, the Greek word for ‘amber’, which soon gave rise to the English word-electricity.
Otto Van Guericke invented an early electrostatic generator in 1660. Other European pioneers were Robert Boyle, who in 1675 stated that electric attraction and repulsion can act across a vacuum.
Stephen Gray, who in 1729 classified materials as conductors and insulators, and C.F. Du Fay, who first identified the two types of electricity that would later be called positive and negative.