We’ve recently seen what happens when WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook all go down. All you can do is stare at the ceiling, and the entire experience is like watching paint dry. But imagine the world without the Internet — or rather, without electric power — for more than a few hours. To honor this revolutionary invention, we delve into the question of who created electricity.
What Is Electricity?
Although you already know what electricity is, you’ll see how defining it might not be so easy. That’s because this term often gets used interchangeably with that of electrical energy. A textbook definition would be that electricity is the flow of the electrical charge or power. But what does that even mean? An even better question might be: “Why do you need electricity, and how do you even get it?”
Electricity is a result of the conversion of primary sources of energy. To get it, you need natural gas, coal, oil, or nuclear power. You can also use wind, solar, or hydroelectric energy to produce electricity. Now might be a good time to revise the basic types of energy here.
Because of its purpose, electricity is sometimes considered a secondary source of energy. It provides your home with light and heat and powers your appliances. You know what they say: “If it weren’t for electricity, we’d all be watching TV by candlelight.”
Who Invented Electricity?
You can’t pin the invention of electricity to one exact event in history. Instead, you can view it as a series of moments that ultimately led to a whole new era. Each of the following revolutionaries brought us a step closer to the world as we know it today.
In his day, one of the Founding Fathers introduced the world with many technological marvels. Bifocals, swimming fins, and the Franklin stove wouldn’t have seen the light of day if it weren’t for Ben (and his mouse, if you happen to be a Disney fan). But one of Franklin’s greatest inventions was undoubtedly the lighting rod. Thanks to Ben’s kite experiment during a Philadelphia storm in 1752, people learned some of the basic principles of electricity.
There was Thomas Edison, and then there was light. When, in 1879, a light bulb switched off in his head, he patented his invention. But even before him, some British inventors already knew electric light was possible. Still, the world honors Edison for this patent, naming the most beloved incandescent lamps after him.
Edison’s invention of the light bulb wouldn’t have happened without DC. The equally remarkable direct-current electrical system supported his patent. And Edison’s DC seems to have ruled the world until Tesla came along. Because of the rivalry between the two scientists, the late 1880s became the time of the War of the Currents.
Unlike Edison, Nikola Tesla saw the limitations of the DC electrical system. It couldn’t easily convert to higher or lower voltages. For that reason, Tesla invented the alternating current, now used everywhere. After all, the inverter on your solar panel system also converts DC to AC.
Final Thoughts on Electricity
There’s no way you could do without electrical power, and you know it. But thanks to our little science/history lesson, you now know how to define electricity, too. And from this moment on, the names of these three revolutionaries will be stuck in your head.
Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla all brought the world out of the darkness. Their experiments with the principles of electricity resulted in the invention of the lightning rod, the light bulb, DC, and AC. Hopefully, we’ll remember to thank these guys even between the two blackouts.