Monday, January 4, 2010

Electricity – How it Came to be


Electricity – How it Came to be

Author: Liam G
Electricity and water are the two main things that the majority of the world’s population take for granted. With the flick of a switch we are able to power anything from the humble light bulb to an entire city. However, less than 90 years ago no more than 10% of British households had electricity in their homes. So what exactly is it that has made it possible to power billions of households across the globe?

To begin with it’s important to note that electricity was never really “discovered”, but harnessed. Electricity has existed since the dawn of time; in nature for instance we see it in the form of bolts of lightening that light up our skies or the small static shocks we get from time to time.

Many consider Benjamin Franklin to have been the one that “discovered” electricity as far back as 1752; this is not the whole truth though. Instead he paved the way for other great scientist of the time to study this new and exciting technology further.

The following 50 years was a frustrating time for scientist across the globe as they knew of electricity, but had no dependable source of it with which to conduct experiments. This all changed though in 1800 when the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta made a major breakthrough. Volta discovered that placing a piece of salt paper in between sheets of zinc and copper created an electrical current.

Volta had created the first ever electrical cell, which was strung together to create a battery; in honour of this a battery’s power is measured in “Volts”. From this point forward scientists had a dependable form of electricity which they could study further, the second major breakthrough.

Around the same time, Michael Faraday, an English scientist discovered that an electrical current could also be created by passing a magnet through copper wiring – this paved the way for today’s electric motors and generators.

A large portion of electricity’s progression was down to scientist’s obsession with light, and with the invention of the battery, another scientist - Thomas Edison was focusing on how to use this technology to create the world’s first light bulb. It was a long and arduous journey, but eventually Edison combined the right materials required to create the first dependable incandescent light bulb.

The next problem faced was bringing the electricity to the people, a system that was both practical and inexpensive had to be designed. In a few years time Edison had overcome the problems, and on 4th September 1882 Edison lit up lower Manhattan with the worlds first power station.

To begin with electricity prices were steep, the development of AC (alternating current) power systems however, made cheap electricity a possibility. For some time many were wary of this new technology, some fearful of bringing it into their homes – today though a world without such utilities would be practically uninhabitable.
About the Author:
Liam is a UK based writer

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