The Timeline and History of Electricity Briefly Explained

Can you imagine what life was like when people didn’t have electricity to light their homes? It’s difficult to fathom how life could be back then because the electricity powers our entire world today.

But how was electricity discovered, and how did it become a global power source? Read on to find the answer to these and more questions, as we explain the timeline and history of electricity.

Concept of Electricity in Ancient Times

The earliest concept of electricity discovered by humans is difficult to trace. Even in ancient times, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations were aware of some form of electric energy, due to the existence of electric fish and lightning in nature.

Arabians also used the word ‘ra’ad’ – meaning ‘lightning’ – to describe the electric ray fish, during the 15th century. So, while we don’t know the exact time or incident when electricity was first discovered, we do know that people had some idea about natural electrical energy since ancient times.

18th Century

One of the most notable events in the history of electricity is Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite incident. In 1752, Franklin conducted an experiment to see if the lighting was a form of electricity. He tied a metal key to a kite string and then started flying the kite during a thunderstorm. As the lightning hit the kite, he experienced a shock that proved that lightning is electric in nature.

19th Century

The next big discovery in the history of electricity was made by Michael Faraday, a British scientist, in 1831. He discovered that electricity could be generated by moving a magnet through the middle of a solenoid copper wire. This showed that certain materials could conduct electricity when they were placed in a fluctuating magnetic field. This incident led to the discovery of electromagnetism.

As the years passed, many scientists, physicists, and researchers conducted individual experiments to further understand and harness electricity.

In 1879, Thomas Edison – an independent American inventor – was looking for a way to generate light with electricity, and eventually invented the light bulb. In the 1880s, Edison’s invention was applied on a large scale and a few plants were constructed that powered small cities in the US. It was one of the first events of an electrical appliance being used on a large scale.

20th Century

The period between the late 19th and early 20th century saw two simultaneous developments in the history of electricity.

On one hand, inventors – who now had a basic understanding of electricity – started working on a number of electrical appliances. Alexander Graham Bell’s the telephone and Alessandro Volta’s battery were a few of the notable inventions. Other noteworthy names who have conducted experiments on electricity included Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, and George Westinghouse. Later in 1947, transistors were invented which paved the way for the development of modern digital electronics.

As researchers and inventors were giving rise to new devices and technology, Edison and many other parties also started commercializing electricity. By the mid-1900s, most of the big and populated towns had were lighted by electricity. Gradually, electricity became a commodity that people had to pay for.

End of 20th Century till Present Era

Now that mankind had learned to power a few homes with electricity, they started expanding the concept and slowly developed efficient power transmission systems. The concept of electricity also diverged into two paths – power generation – transmission – distribution, and the invention of electrical appliances.

By the end of the 20th century, a significant portion of the world had access to electricity, and devices such as telephones and computers were slowly becoming a part of our daily lives.

The Wrap Up

The history of electricity is not easy to map down, because it was not a single event but the combined effort of many researchers over many years that led to the discovery of electricity and changed it into a basic necessity and commodity