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Electricity 101 – When Was Electricity Invented?

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? Did it happen with a kite and lightning?

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 electricity.

  • 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 this day.

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 as possible.