History of Electricity

As an example of how new ideas are generated, and what role academics vs. non-academics play, I put together a little timeline of the history of electricity:

Robert Boyle

  • Independently weathy, spend his time doing science
  • 1675: Realized that attraction & repulsion were mutual, the electric force was transmitted through vacuum

Stephen Gray

  • Did experiments as a pensioner in his 60s.
  • 1730: discovered that electricity can flow, distinguished conductors from non-conductors

Pieter van Musschenbroek

  • Professor of natural philosophy and mathematics
  • 1745: Invented Leyden jar

William Watson

  • Pharmacist and physician
  • 1747: discharged Leyden jar through a circuit

Benjamin Franklin

  • Business man in the printing business
  • At the age of 43 he retired to do his hobby of science full time
  • 1750s: electricity experiments

Henry Cavendish

  • Inherited a lot of money

Charles Coulomb

  • Military engineer
  • 1773: published calculus of variations
  • 1781: At 45 was so well renouned for his scientific work that he was appointed to French Academy of Sciecne
  • late 1780s: demonstrated inverse square law for electric charges

Georg Simon Ohm

  • Taught mathematics at a Gymnasium, did science at first for fun, then to publish so he could become a professor
  • 1827: published Ohm’s law

James Prescott Joule

  • Independently wealth, worked in his father’s brewery.
  • 1840s: Worked on efficiency of electirc motors. Discovered P = IV.

G. R. Kirchhoff

Hans Christian Oersted

André Marie Ampère

D. F. Arago

Alessandro Volta

Luigi Galvani

James Watt

Lord Kelvin

Thomas Seebeck

Michael Faraday

James Maxwell

Heinrich Hertz


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