Pre-1900 Electrical Innovations and Discoveries

600 BC
The first documented account of electricity was by Thales of Miletus, a Greek philosopher, at around 600 B.C. He observed that amber, when rubbed, held a charge of static electricity.

The word “electricity” originates from the Greek word for amber (ēlektron), coined by William Gilbert in the early 1600s.
In the 1660s Otto von Guericke invented the first machine that generates static electricity. The machines produced static electricity by rubbing a rotating sulphur globe.


  • 1729 Stephen Gray experimented with conductivity after noticing different materials carry static charges in different lengths.
  • 1733 Charles François de Cisternay du Fay later discovered that electricity comes in two different forms, which is now called positive and negative.
  • 1745 Ewald Georg von Kleist invented the Leyden Jar which stored static electricity, known to be the first electrical capacitor.
  • 1750 Benjamin Franklin therorized that lightning bolts are electricity, and did indeed prove it correct with his kite experiment.
  • 1786 Luigi Galvani correlated electricity and nerve impulses. He used static energy to twitch muscles in frogs.


  • 1800 The first battery was made by Alessandro Volta, which were made from copper and zinc plates, with electrolyte in between them.
  • 1820 Hans Christian Oersted confirmed the relationship between magnetism and electricity.
  • 1821 Michael Faraday invents the first electrical motor
  • 1839 Sir William Robert Grove invents the first fuel cell
  • 1879 Thomas Edison displays his light bulb in New Jersey.
  • 1888 Nikola Tesla invents the AC current alternator.
  • 1897 J.J. Thomson discovers the electron particle

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