Energy Pioneers

Electricity was not invented - it occurs naturally in our world, and always has. People, however, can be credited with inventing ways to measure it and to control it for our use. Without the important discoveries of these energy pioneers we would not be able to benefit from the value that having a steady supply of electricity brings to our lives.

Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin started working with electricity in the 1740's. He believed that lightning was a flow of electricity taking place in nature. He performed his famous kite experiment in 1752 which proved that electricity and lightning was the same thing. This experiment led to his discovery of positive and negative electricity, and to his development of terms we still use today: battery, conductor, condenser, charge, discharge, electric shock, and electrician.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is another important name in the history of electricity. In the late 1800's he developed 1,093 inventions, but his most famous is the incandescent light bulb. He wanted to bring light into homes and factories. Up until then people used candles or whale oil lamps for light.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein wrote four fundamental papers, all in a few months. Einstein wrote a paper with a new understanding of the structure of light. He argued that light can act as though it consists of discrete, independent particles of energy, in some ways like the particles of a gas. Einstein showed that light quanta, as he called the particles of energy, could help to explain phenomena being studied by experimental physicists. For example, he made clear how light ejects electrons from metals. The second paper offered an experimental test for the theory of heat and proof of the existence of atoms. The third paper addressed a central puzzle for physicists of the day - the connection between electromagnetic theory and ordinary motion - and solved it using the "principle of relativity." The fourth showed that mass and energy are two parts of the same thing, mass-energy (E=mc2).

Michael Faraday

The credit for generating electric current on a practical scale goes to the famous English scientist, Michael Faraday. Faraday was greatly interested in the invention of the electromagnet, but his brilliant mind took earlier experiments still further. If electricity could produce magnetism, why couldn't magnetism produce electricity? In 1831, Faraday found the solution. Electricity could be produced through magnetism by motion. He discovered that when a magnet was moved inside a coil of copper wire, a tiny electric current flows through the wire. Of course, by today's standards, Faraday's electric dynamo or electric generator was crude, and provided only a small electric current, but he discovered the first method of generating electricity by means of motion in a magnetic field.