History of Electricity

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 September 2016

History of Electricity

Electricity is one of the greatest discoveries of man, this is simply because it brings light and it has open door to so many other discoveries and invention. Men of today actually depend on this form of energy to live and perform his or her basic duties. Machine of today depend mostly on electricity to function properly. Magnetism, which is an aspect of electromagnetism, is considered one of the fundamental forces of nature (Blume, 2007).

Those forces are usually produced by the movements of the charges and this has greatly show the influence of electricity on magnetism or vice versa (that is there is a close relationship between the electricity and the magnetism). Since the forces that hold molecules are considered as electrical force hence there is a great relationship between magnetism and electricity. Most discoveries sorrounding electricity is one way or other linked to the influence or the role of magnetism in electricity. Hence the history of electricity can not be fully describe without greatly considering the history of magnetism because they work together.

Electricity is also found in human body as a form of very weak electrical signal that help transmit neural impulses from one part of the body to the other. Electricity can be generated and transmited (as indicated in the above scenario) or it can also be converted into other forms of energy such as heat, light, motion, radiation and even different waves such as radioactive wave, sound waves through different natural means or infrastructure or equiptment constructed by man, hence making this form of energy to be versatile.

The versatility of electricity can be seen in these perspective in that it can be stored, hence it has been the stronghold of many appliaces and luxuries people cherish. History of electricity The history of electricity dated back to antiquity when the ancient greeks observed the influence of amber whenever it is rubbed, then, it was found to attract small, light objects.

These discoveries never really made any impact or meaning to this generation of greeks until about 600 BC when Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus held that amber had a soul within it which is responsible for the attraction that existed between it and the small, light objects. Hence this claims was later documented and even after about 2000 year of that claims and documentation, only little progress was made about the study of the electricity and magnetism.

The real study of magnetism and electricity came into limelight about 1600 with the documentation and publication by William Gilbert someone considered as the father of electricity( Bellis, 2008). He then claim to have discover different material having this potential of attracting one another when rubbed together even apart from the magnetism of amber. William Gilbert(1544-1603), is an English physician and physicist who studied at Saint John’s College, University of Cambrige. He was a physician to the queen of Englan.

He is known primarily for his discoveries and experiment in the field of electricity and magnetism. During his lifetime he discover various materials that posses the ability to attract, he first use the term electric to describe the phenomenon of attraction that existed between those materials and coined the word electricity, meaning amber in Latin. He first use the following terms; electric force, electric attraction, and magnetic pole ( Microsoft Encarta, 2008). Another important aspect of his great work was the explanation of the term magnetic compass.

Before his description of the magnetic compass, Britain sailors depend on the use of the compass to direct their ship to their destination without the understanding of how the compass works. Some even thought then that garlic odour had an effect on the functioning of the compass, Columbus even thought functioning depend on the attraction of the compass by the pole star ( Bellis, 2008). He’s s greatest contribution has been attributed to his study and demonstration on the magnetic nature of the earth.

His works was written as “Of Magnets, Magnetic Bodies, and the Great Magnet of the Earth”, a scientific work that was considered as the first scientific work written in England (Microsoft Encarta, 2008). Rene Descarte’s in the year 1638, discover the fundamental law of reflection which states that “the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection”, he also tried to discover the theory of light by describing light as a pressure in a solid medium. Robert Hooke in 1667 disvover what is now called the Newton’s rings by placing two glass plates together and observing the layer of air between them.

He discover that there is formation of a ring of lights, and with this same work he define the matching-wave-front derivation of reflection and refraction. He also develp a theory of color where he describe white light as a simple disturbance and colors as a complex distortion of the basic simple white form. In 1672, the electrical conductivity substance was discovered by the German Physicist Otto von Guer, he also describe the first machine that was capable of producing electric charges. However the conductivity of substances was fully established by the experiments conducted by Stephen Gray about 1729.

He also establish the facts that there are conductors and insulators. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin, one of the foremost English Inventors began his experiments with a simple apparatus he recieved from his friends (Microsoft Encarta, 2008). He proposed the notion of positive and negative electrical charges. He suggested the experiments that connect the relationship between lightning and electricity. He also suggest that an erect iron can be placed on a building to draw electricity during storm.

The experiments and proposal was published in London and carried out in England and France (Microsoft Encarta, 2008). In 1880, Alessandro Volta of Italy is another major contributor to the development of electricity. His contributions was the develepment of alternating discs made up of zinc and copper element, with pieces of cardboard that was soaked in brine between the metals. The construction generate electricity. This invention made him the first person to build an equipment that can generate electricity practically. his invention was the first battery to be made to generate electric which was later constructed to long distance, in a steady and reliable state. He studied what is termed static spark by experimenting with the atmospheric electricity.

He also disprove the theory that electricity came from the animal tissue, but made it known with his experiments that electricity can only be generated by contact of different metals in a fluid enviroment. The unit of electromotive force was named after him “volt” In 1826, Georg Ohm released two papers stating the mathematical description of electrical conduction in circuits.

The thesis was based or modeled of Fourier’s study of heat conduction ( Dept of Energy, 2008). The second thesis propose laws meant to guide or explain results achieved while working with galvanic electricity, one of which was the ohm’s law: a law describing the relationship between voltage, current and resistance. He gave the equation of I=V/R. The law states that “the amount of steady current through a material is directly proportional to the voltage across the material divided by the electrical resistance of the material” ( Dept of Energy, 2008).

Micheal Faraday, lived between 1791-1867. He was a physicist and a chemist. He is besk known for his famous discoveries which include the discovery of electromagnetic induction and the laws of electrolysis while the greatest of all his inventions was that of electric motor. He also describe and establish the principle sorrounding the dielectric substances indicating that those materials have different and specific inductive capacities. His role in the electromagnetism is one of the most important because induction can be made to generate electricity.

That indicate the clear dependency between magnetism and electricity. The discovery was all about the generation of electricity in a wire by means of magnetism of another wire. He design and created the first electric transformer by the use of the induction ring. These creations led to the design of modern electric motor, electric generator and transformers. His researches also extend to the discovery of the fact that plane polarized light passing through some kind of glass can be made to rotate by the influence of magnetic field.

He also proved and established that electricity induced from a magnets while voltaic electricity can be produced by a battery and static electricity are all the same ( Bellis, 2008). Charles Brush who lived between 1849 and 1929 made some contributions to the electromagnetic world. He’s an American and also a great industrialist. He produced the first commercially successful arc lamp, the influence of which was attributed to be a driving force behind the growth of electric lighting industry in America.

He further experiment with magnets and invent dynamo, a machine that works on energy conversion principle by converting mechanical energy of motion to electrical energy. He demonstrated the first street lighting and also pioneer the production of modern generator. Thomas Alva Edison invented lightbuld in the year 1879. He is considered as one of the greatest inventors of all time because he invented different machines and equiptment ranging from electric bulb to phonograph and motion picture camera. He also created incandescent light based on the principle of energy conversion.

As a result of his role in the electricity discoveries and invention, he seek to create an efficient and modern way of electricity distribution to various homes and offices. George Westinghouse made a perfection of the automatic electric block signal and help developed the first alternating current. He also identified the efficient method of transmitting clean natural gas to each homes. He’s contribution came about the year 1885. Conclusion After the 19 century discoveries, there has been great and tremendous discoveries in the electromagnetic world.

The use of electricity has remain inevitable to our lives and this dependency was as a result of the various discoveries that had existed for years. Our future as man will continue to depend on the electricity, even as new discoveries are being made by scientists and researchers. The recent trend of discoveries being the use of solar energy to power up all our daily need. No matter how advancements technology is going to be in the future we and our enviroment will still depend on the influence of electromagnetism as the power behind our back.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 September 2016

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