10 Key Moments in Electricity's History

Events

Discovery of Static Electricity

Approx. 600 BC

Thales, a Greek, found out that when amber is rubbed against silk it is electrically charged and attracts objects.

The term "Electricity" was first used

Approx. 1600

William Gilbert derived the word from the Greek word for amber, "elektron".

Ben Franklin's Kite Experiment

1752

Ben Franklin tied a key to a kite string during a thunderstorm, and proved that static electricity and lightning were the same thing.

Invention of the First Electric Battery

Approx. 1800

Alessandro Volta (Italy) invented the electric battery. The word "volt" was named after him.

Invention of the First Effective Lamp

1808

Sir Humphry Davy (England) invented the first effective lamp. The arc lamp was a piece of carbon that glowed when connected by wires to a battery.

Ohm's Law Was Written

1826

Gerog Ohm defined the relationship between power, voltage, current, and resistance in Ohm's Law (Ohm's Law - Voltage = Current x Resistance).

Invention of the Electric Motor

1837

Thomas Davenport invented the electric motor which is today used in appliances.

Discovery of Energy Conservation in Electrical Circuits

1841

James Prescott Joule showed that energy is conserved in electrical circuits involving current flow, thermal heating, and chemical transformations (Joule, the unit of measurement for thermal energy, was named in his honor).

Invention of the Electric Telegraph

1844

Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph, which is a machine that could send messages long distances across wires.

Invention of the Incandescent Lightbulb

1878

Joseph Swan (England) invented the first incandescent lightbulb (also called an electric lamp). His lightbulb burned out quickly.