Electricity Discoveries Timeline

  • Jan 1, 1000

    Thales of Miletus (635-547 BC)

    Thales of Miletus (635-547 BC)
    Over 2500 years ago, a Greek mathematician named Thales of Miletus rubbed a piece of amber with a silk cloth. The amber attracted light objects such as grass and feathers.
    Although Thales did not know what had happened, we now know that it had become electrically charged.
  • William Gilbert

    William Gilbert
    William Gilbert was an English scientist who served Queen Elizabeth I. He invented the word electricity from the Greek word for amber, "elektron". He was also the first to use the terms electric force, magnetic pole and electric attraction. He realized that there was a connection between magnetism and electricity.
  • William Gilbert

    William Gilbert
    William Gilbert proved that many materials had the same property as amber, being able to attract light objects. Previously, people believed that this attribute was unique to amber.
  • Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

    Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
    Benjamin Franklin was a famous US politican. Franklin's kite experiment, where he flew a kite with a metal tip in a thunderstorm, showed that lightning was electricity. He was also the first person to use the terms positive charge and negative charge.
  • Benjamin Franklin

    Benjamin Franklin
    In the 1700's lightning caused many fires. So Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, which is a tall rod that is attached outside of a house. One end points up to the sky, the other end is connected to a cable. This cable goes down the side of the house to the ground. The end of the cable is buried deep under the ground. This attraced lightning and brought it down under the ground to prevent fires.
  • Galvani, Luigi (1737 - 1798)

    Galvani, Luigi (1737 - 1798)
    Galvani was an italian scientist as well as a medical doctor. While he was examining a dead frog, He discovered that when a was charge applied to the spinal cord, muscle spasms could be generated through the body. Later Galvani use a brass hook to hold the frog's muscle. The brass hook was attached to an iron railing. A spark traveled between the brass hook and iron railing and made the muscle move.
  • Alessandro Volta

    Alessandro Volta
    In this year, Alessandro Volta made the voltaic pile, which was later known as the electric battery. It was the first device able to produce a steady electric current.
  • Hans Christian Oersted

    Hans Christian Oersted
    This Danish physicist discovered that an electric current in wire can cause a magnetized compass needle to go in another direction. This inspired the development of electromagnetic theory.
  • Thomas Edison

    Thomas Edison
    In the 1870's, Thomas Edison built a direct current (DC) electric generator. This later provided all of New York's electricity.
  • Alexander Graham Bell

    Alexander Graham Bell
    In the summer of 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone using a thin sheet of metal, some wire wrapped around a magnet and a battery. It was able to convert sound into electricity and then back to sound. Unlike the modern day phone, the people using the phone would have to move the reciever between the mouth and ear.
  • Thomas Edison

    Thomas Edison
    In this year, Thomas Edison improved, not invented, a lightbulb. He improved the quality of a 50-year old idea. It was a reliable, lasting source of electric light.
  • Nikola Tesla

    Nikola Tesla
    In the 1880's, Nikola Tesla invented an alternating current (AC) motor and a system that generated AC power. Thomas Edison didn't like Tesla's system, because it was a threat to his DC supply. Edison started stories that it was not safe. He even built an electric chair that used AC to try to prove this. But after Tesla's system was used to power 100 000 lights in the Chicago World Fair, AC became very popular. He is the true inventor of fluoroscent light and the radio.
  • Nikola Tesla

    Nikola Tesla
    In this year, Nikola Tesla invented the Tesla Coil. It is still used today in radio and television sets, as well as other electronic equipment.
  • Albert Einstein

    Albert Einstein
    Albert Einstein showed that light energy could be turned into electricity. Thus, the idea behind photovoltaic cells was made.
  • Edward Samuels Rogers

    Edward Samuels Rogers
    This year, Edwars Samuels Rogers from Ontario made the first radio that could be plugged into a wall outlet.
  • Donald L. Hings

    Donald L. Hings
    This year, Donald L. Hings of British Columbia invented the portable transceiver, also known as the Walkie-Talkie.
  • George J. Klein

    George J. Klein
    This Canadian invented the electric wheelchair.
  • Pierre Couture

    Pierre Couture
    Pierre Couture, from Quebec, is working on a car that has four electric motors on each of the wheels.