Historical Energy Events


Invention of the steam engine


Description: During the Industrial Revolution, new inventions and innovations were being made. One was the Steam Engine. Coal would boil water and create steam. This steam would become pressurized and power a machine. This engine was later used to power automobiles and ships. This is significant because this invention caused the greater use of coal, especially in Britain, and caused great pollution in areas that were highly populated with factories. This was also significant because this contributed to the transformation for human energy to machine-made energy. Even though this was invented in Britain, it spread the U.S and greatly affected their economy.


“Steam Engine” by Don O'Brien is licensed under CC BY 2.0

First commercial coal production in the U.S


Description: In 1748, the first commercial coal production began. These coal mines, specifically in Richmond, Virginia, coal was used to manufacture war materials during the Revolutionary War. This started with the first coal “miners” in the colonies who dug coal from beds exposed on the surface. This commercial coal production further increased the popularity and use of coal, resulting in more pollution.


“Loading coal, Jenkins, Kentucky” by United States. Farm Security Administration is licensed under CC0 1.0

Invention of the battery


Description: In 1800, Volta, an Italian physicist, invented the electrical battery. The beginnings of this invention started off with the discovery of “animal electricity,” where he discovered that when two metals were placed on a frog leg, the leg would twitch, due to an electrical current. This led to more knowledge of electrical currents. Called the “voltaic pile,” this new knowledge of a how to create a steady flow of electric currents sparked new discoveries and technologies.


“Battery” by Sh4rp_i is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The first modern water turbine


Description: In 1849, James Francis created the first modern water turbine, also called the Francis turbine. This turbine, which is completely surrounded by water, moves water from the outer edge to the inside of the turbine. The blades within the turbine spin, creating electricity. Today, this turbine is used worldwide and one of the most used turbines in hydroelectric power. This source of energy doesn’t create any pollution. There are some negatives though, including the harmful effect on fish and the reduction of water in streams.


“Water Turbine” by Prayitno / Thank you for (9 millions +) views is licensed under CC BY 2.0

*This is a picture of other water powered turbines. Creative commons didnt have any results for the Francis Turbine.

Invention of the light bulb


Description: In 1879, Thomas Edison patented the incandescent light bulb and one year later commercialized it. He focused on improving the filament (the part of the light bulb that produces light when heated) in order to make it affordable and in order to keep it lit for longer. He settled on a filament made of bamboo, which had a much longer lifetime compared to past filaments.


“EDISON, THOMAS ALVA” by Public.Resource.Org is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Pearl Street Station


Description: In 1882, Thomas Edison publicly presented a system of commercial electric lighting and power, in Manhattan. This was created partly due to the success of his invention of the light bulb, which created a demand for a source of power. The station included reliable central power generation. He built elaborate networks of wires and underground tubes to deliver energy to customers. This was the beginning of elaborate ways to deliver electricity to people and how to efficiently do so.


“Thomas A. Edison [front]” by Boston Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The first wind turbine


Description: In 1888, a man in Ohio, named Charles Brush, invented the first windmill that generated electricity. He built it to power his own mansion, and lived in it until 1929, when he died from pneumonia. The turbine’s wheel had 144 blades and provided electricity for his mansion for 20 years. If this source of functional clean energy had been encouraged since 1888, things today would probably be very different today.


“Wind turbine” by david__jones is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Albery Einstein's E=mc^2


Description:This German-born physicist theory of special relativity expressed the fact that mass and energy can be changed into each other. E (kinetic energy) equals the mass (m) of a body times the speed of light squared (c2.) This changed the previous theories that mass and energy were distinct entities. This gave people more knowledge and understanding about energy. Today, almost everyone can recite it because it is one of the most famous equations in the world.


“Albert Einstein - Caricature” by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The mass production of automobiles


Description: In 1913, Henry Ford installed the first moving assembly line to mass produce automobiles. His idea was sparked by the idea of interchangeable-parts which was used in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This assemble line reduced how long it took to assemble a car from 12 hours, to less than 3 hours. Due to the fact that more and more cars were being made, they became less and less expensive, making it affordable to the working class. This was significant because it sparked the popularity of cars and ultimately caused more pollution.


“Old Cars II” by marciopereiraarrebola is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Invention of the microwave


Description: In 1946, an engineer names Percy Spencer, when he was testing a magnetron and realized that it had melt his snack. Spencer was working on improving the level of magnetron tubes used in radar sets. He realized that while testing one of his magnetrons, his snack in his pocket had melted. Due to this accidental discovery of microwave technology, today 90% of households contain a microwave.


“My microwave/toaster/oven” by Jeremy Hall is licensed under CC BY 2.0