Electricity is a form of energy occurring to the movement of charged particles. Large-scale electricity generation and transmission revolutionized communication, manufacturing, and entertainment.

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Electricity is a form of energy due to the movement of charged particles, known as electrons. Electricity and its related phenomena have been studied for thousands of years, but not fully understood until the last couple of centuries. The ancient Greeks first noted that amber, when rubbed, would attract light objects such as feathers. Electricity wasn’t discovered in a single moment, but over a long period including work by Nikola Tesla, Benjamin Franklin, Alessandro Volta, and Luigi Galvani.

Michael Faraday made the important discovery that we could generate an electrical current by moving a magnet near a coil of wire. From this, the generator was born. The first public electricity network was built in Godalming England, where a small hydroelectric generator was used to power a series of street lamps in the town. From there, countries now have national electricity networks; these grid systems use generators and transmission lines. The generators induce an alternating current by turning a generator and the transmission lines carry the current over distances to our homes and places of work. We can then transfer this electrical energy into a range of other energy types. This had a huge effect on the lives of humans around the world.

We can now barely imagine a world without electricity. It has changed the way humans live. The first advantage was providing light after the sun goes down. We use electricity in all areas of our lives: we use it to keep us warm, keep us cool, move us around, clean our clothes, cook our food, and a thousand other uses. The challenge now facing engineers is how to generate electricity without emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide. They are doing this by harnessing renewable energy, using wind turbines or solar panels for example.

Check out the Electric Circuits lesson plans!

Notable Scientists for Electricity

  • Thales of Miletus (624-546 BCE)
  • William Gilbert (1544-1603)
  • Henry Cavendish (1731-1810)
  • Charles de Coulomb (1736-1806)
  • Luigi Galvani (1737-1798)
  • Alessandro Volta (1745-1827)
  • Thomas Seebeck (1770-1831)
  • Joseph Priestley (1773-1804)
  • André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836)
  • Humphry Davy (1778-1829)
  • Georg Ohm (1789-1854)
  • Daniell Cell (1790-1845)
  • Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
  • Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875)
  • Joseph Swan (1828-1914)
  • Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
  • Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
  • Robert Van De Graaff (1901-1967)
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