Take electricity away from mankind and we will roll back into Stone Age in no time. The importance of electricity in our lives cannot be explained. We just know that today our very survival depends on it. Now that electricity is so important, one very simple question comes to our minds – ‘when was it discovered?’
While many of the school textbooks still say that it was Benjamin Franklin who discovered electricity, the truth is far from being what is said in those books. So, let us today learn 30 interesting electricity facts that will negate everything we have learned about the discovery of electricity we have learned till date.
Just to mention, this list of facts will not just give a glimpse into the history of electricity but will also speak of some of the most interesting facts about this inseparable aspect of our lives. Let’s get started with our list of electricity facts…
Interesting Electricity Facts: 1-5
1. Electricity was never invented. It was discovered. The difference between invention and discovery is that humans can invent something which does not already exist in nature and discover something which already exists in nature. Electricity is actually a type of energy that is present in nature and hence, it was discovered and not invented.
2. While many people give credits to Benjamin Franklin for the discovery of electricity, it is far from being true. Franklin conducted a series of experiments that merely helped establishing a relationship between electricity and lightning.
3. So, who discovered electricity? To answer this question, we need to travel back in time. How far back? More than a couple of thousand years back! Yes, we are looking back into the ancient times.
4. Static electricity was discovered by the ancient Greeks some 600 years before the beginning of the Common Era. They noticed that when amber and fur are rubbed together, they attract each other. Eureka! They discovered static electricity.
5. Romans weren’t that dumb either! After all, they built the mighty Roman Empire. Somewhere in the 1930s, archeological excavations of the ancient Roman sites revealed some pots wrapped with copper sheets from inside. Careful studies of the discovered pots led the scientists to believe that these were ancient batteries.
Interesting Electricity Facts: 6-10
6. And how can we forget the Persians? The dig sites near Bagdad revealed similar pots and scientists, after careful examination of those pots and their internal components, could not come up with any alternative theory but to suggest that the only purpose of those pots was to generate weak electric current.
7. So the question is, what did the ancients do with these batteries? Scientists believe that they used them for electroplating artifacts that are now stored in museums all around the world. So, discovery of electricity is not as new as Benjamin Franklin!
8. Ancient Egyptian tombs are, as believed by many scholars of likes of Sir J. Norman Lockyer, are blatant proof that ancient Egyptians used electric lamps. The arguments put forward is that in the deepest recesses of the freshly-opened tombs, there are no evidences of soot marks on ceilings. He argues that using oil lamps or dim candles to aid the artisans in embellishing the walls with accurate colors and fine details of the deceased would leave soot marks on the ceilings.
9. He further argues that using mirrors to reflect the sunlight is also not a close possibility because it would require very complex arrangement of the mirrors in the maze of rooms found in those tombs. Furthermore, just in case an artisan stepped right in front of a reflecting mirror, the whole critical link would break. He further argues that the positioning of the reflectors had to be changed with the movement of the sun, which alone would have been a Herculean task!
10. Lockyer points out that all the freshly-opened tombs (those that were not intruded by grave thieves and looters) did not show any smoke residue anywhere on walls or ceilings, which goes on to prove that ancient Egyptians probably used electric lamps.
Interesting Electricity Facts: 11-15
11. Prominent Egyptologist, Sir John Gardner Wilkinson (1798-1875) pointed out that some of the ancient Egyptian paintings represented electric torches and lamps. Wilkinson argued that people usually don’t recognize those shapes in paintings because they simply don’t look for them.
12. If at all electricity was known to the ancient world (and the evidences show that they did possess the knowledge), it was one hell of an achievement in itself. However, developments on the current state of electricity as we know today started back in 17th century with several discoveries like differentiation between negative and positive current, electrostatic generators and identification insulators and conductors.
13. William Gilbert in 1600 first used the Latin term ‘Electricus’ in order to describe the force that was generated by rubbing two substances. Gilbert was an English physicist.
14. The word ‘Electricity’ was used for the first time a few years later by Thomas Browne, yet another English scientist. He used the word for describing his own works that were actually based on studies of Gilbert.
15. Then it was Benjamin Franklin who took a key, a kite and a storm and went on to prove that tiny electric sparks were same as lightning. He conducted this experiment in 1752.
Interesting Electricity Facts: 16-20
16. Then came Alessandro Volta, a renowned Italian physicist who went on to discover that electricity can be produced by several chemical reactions and eventually in 1800, he went on to build an electric battery known as the voltaic pile. The voltaic pile was capable of producing steady electric current. Thus, Volta became the first person to successfully create steady flow of electrical charge (not considering ancient times because it is really difficult to say whether those ancient people succeeded in doing what Volta did).
17. The credit for first electricity transmission also goes to Volta who succeeded in driving electrical charge or voltage by connecting negatively and positively charged connectors.
18. Then the electric dynamo by Michael Faraday in 1831 opened doors for viable use of electricity in technology. The electric dynamo was actually a very basic and crude power generator. The dynamo resolved the problem of generating electric current steadily and practically. All he did was he used a copper wire coil and a magnet. The magnet moved inside the coil and created an electric current. This current flowed through the coil.
19. Then came Joseph Swan of England and Thomas Edison of America. These two scientists invented the incandescent filament light bulb independently in their countries at round 1878. It is not that light bulbs weren’t invented previously but they weren’t very practical and did not light up for hours.
20. Edison and Swan later teamed up together to form a company and it was Edison who used his first DC or direct current system for illuminating first street lamps of New York in September 1882.
Interesting Electricity Facts: 21-25
21. Then came Nikola Tesla, a Siberian American engineer in late 1800s and early 1900s. It was his work with electricity that gave birth to commercial electricity. At one stage Tesla did work with Edison but later went on with other important developments such as electromagnetism, AC or alternating current, polyphase distribution system and AC motors.
22. George Westinghouse, an American industrialist and inventor later purchase the patented AC motor of Tesla and together with Tesla and other, he went on to make the Americans believe that AC current was the future and not DC current.
23. Then followed the exemplary works of George Ohm – a German physicist and mathematician, French mathematician Andre Ampere and James Watt – a Scottish inventor that aided making electricity what it is for us today.
24. People are often quoted saying that electricity travels at the speed of light. This is partially true in the sense that electricity is defined in several ways (which are way too complex to be explained in this article). IFF (if and only if) electricity is looked upon as electromagnetic wave traveling through vacuum then yes, electricity travels at the speed of light. But, the electricity we usually talk of is the current that flows through wires in our home appliances. The speed of this electricity is actually 1/100th of the speed of light.
25. Electricity can be made from water, wind, sunlight and even animal poo!
Interesting Electricity Facts: 26-30
26. Volt is the measure of electric potential energy. A single spark of static electricity may measure up to 30,000 volts while a lightning bolt can measure 3,000,000 (3 million) volts. Luckily, a lightning bolt never lasts for more than a second. A single lightning bolt has enough electricity to light up 200,000 average homes.
27. The only country in this world to use renewable electricity sources is Iceland.
28. Electric eels can produce electricity of 600 volts. That’s more than double of what is used at home. These electric eels use their electrical energy for hunting or self-defense.
29. One single Google search consumes enough energy to turn on a 60-watt light bulb for 17 seconds. In a single day, Google search accounts for 12.5 million watts of energy footprint. In total, all data centers of Google collectively consumers 260 million watts of energy in a day!
30. Did you ever wonder why birds don’t get electrocuted when then sit on a power line? That’s because they never touch the other power line. If they somehow touch the other line too with their wings, they will complete the circuit and get electrocuted.
That completes our list of 30 electricity facts. If you have something else to add to this list, feel free to drop us a message.