Certain things in our lives date so far back in history we only know stories about these events.
Electricity is one of these events, as we have all heard the story about Benjamin Franklin flying
the kite with a key attached during a thunderstorm. Is that actually when electricity was
invented? Is Benjamin Franklin the person who invented electricity? There is some truth to this
story, but there are also other details to get a fully accurate idea of electricity.
Direct Energy Regulated Services is one of the leading energy providers in Alberta. Take a look
at how we break down the full story below. We'll start with when electricity was invented.
When Was Electricity Invented? Ancient Clues and Beyond
We'll get to Benjamin Franklin shortly, but for now, it's safe to say that he's not the person who
invented electricity. While we don't know for sure, researchers and archaeologists have found
clues that suggest people from ancient times at least had an idea regarding the concept of
Ancient Greeks - Around 600 BC, the Greeks discovered static electricity by rubbing fur on amber.
Ancient Romans - Researchers in the 1930s found a clay pot containing copper plates, tin alloy and an iron rod, which may have been the first battery.
Ancient Persians - Other researchers in the 1930s discovered two jars that are also believed to be an ancient form of batteries.
It was around 1600 AD that things began to pick up with the development of electricity. William
Gilbert, an English philosopher, physician and physicist, is believed to be the person who
invented electricity as a term. He referred to "electricus" when describing energy created by
rubbing materials that conduct electricity together. According to Universe Today, another
English scientist, Thomas Browne, built on that by using the word "electricity" in several books
dedicated to investigating Gilbert's work.
1752 - An Important Date in Electricity History
The concept of electricity was bandied about by researchers and scientists prior to the 18th
Century. In 1752, Ben Franklin decided to fly a kite in a storm with a key attached to the string.
The electricity from the storm clouds traveled down the string with the key as a conductor, and
Franklin got shocked. He proved with this experiment not only the sparks that were created in
his previous tests were the same thing – electricity – but that electricity could have practical
uses once obtained.
According to the Institute for Energy Research, 1831 was also an important year in electricity
history. That year, British scientist Michael Faraday discovered how to generate electricity. He
did so by moving magnets inside coils of copper wire. This discovery was termed
electromagnetic induction, and it is still the basic premise of how we generate our electricity to
When Was Electricity First Used Commercially?
A few decades later, electricity finally became available for commercial use. According to the
Edison Tech Center, the first power station began operating in 1879 in Dolgeville, New York. It
generated electricity for industrial purposes. In 1882, the first power plant to supply electricity to
consumers started in New York City. The Edison Illuminating Company provided electricity for
400 streetlights and worked with 85 customers in its infancy.
Today, power plants are using the "HVDC" approach for electricity delivery. HVDC stands for
High Voltage Direct Current and is an established technology that transmits electricity by
transmission lines over long distances. This approach is proven most effective versus other
forms used in the past.
The History of Electricity in Alberta
With many different geographic areas, electricity in Alberta came about as the population boom
hit the province around the turn of the 20th Century. According to the Government of Alberta'sWeb site, Calgary was the first population center in the province to adopt electricity in 1887.
Calgary had 10 streetlights installed to get the process moving. Edmonton came into the world
of electricity four years later.
Since then, the norms surrounding electricity have grown and changed over time. These days,
you'll see all those power lines along the highways and know that there's a long history of
invention, innovation and improvements. Also, they are providing homes and businesses the
power they need for their lights, appliances and anything else that runs on electricity.
Direct Energy Regulated Services – How We Fit
As you can see, the answer to the question, "When was electricity invented?" is not a simple
one in the least. It dates back centuries and then its development sped up rapidly over the past
100-plus years. Today, when you see the current Alberta electricity rates, you know that
providing the electricity you receive in your home or business is the result of scientific research,
some accidental discoveries and continued learning about how this can all be done as efficiently