Who discovered electricity and when?

Electricity was not 'invented' : its characteristics and uses have been known about and developed over hundreds of years. Static electricity produced by rubbing objects against fur was known to the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, Parthians and Mesopotamians. Greek philosophers discovered that when amber is rubbed against cloth, lightweight objects will stick to it. This is the basis of static electricity. When you touch something and get a shock, that is really static electricity moving through you.

Despite what you may have learned, Benjamin Franklin did not "invent" electricity. In fact, electricity did not begin when Benjamin Franklin flew his kite during a thunderstorm or when light bulbs were installed in houses all around the world.

The truth is that electricity has always been around because it naturally exists in the world. Lightning, for instance, is simply a flow of electrons between the ground and the clouds. Hence, electrical equipment like motors, light bulbs, and batteries aren't needed for electricity to exist. They are just creative inventions designed to harness and use electricity.

Over the centuries, there have been many discoveries made about electricity. We've all heard of famous people like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, but there have been many other inventors throughout history that were each a part in the development of electricity.

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Electricity was discovered long before 1831. Chemical batteries have been around since ancient Greece. One of the earliest scientists to begin to quantify electric charges was the French physicist Charles-Augustin Coulomb (1736-1806). His law for measuring the magnitude of electric charge is still a cornerstone in modern physics. Ampere and Ohm defined current and resistance in direct current and Nikola Tesla invented the AC generator in the late 19th century.

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Electricity wasn't invented : its properties were discovered, examined and explained.
  • Thales of Miletus in ancient Greece is one of the the earliest writers on experimentation with electrical properties. In 600 AD he wrote of static electricity that attracted pieces of straw and hair to rubbed rods of amber. (see related question below)
  • Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning was electrical in nature. He performed several experiments with the properties of the (known) force of electricity. While people have known about the powerful effects of lightning for thousands of years, the first person to discover that lightning was a naturally occurring form of electricity was Benjamin Franklin. In 1752, during a dangerous electrical storm, Franklin flew a kite that had a metal key at the bottom of the string. When a bolt of lightning hit the kite, a spark of electricity flew from the key! From this experiment, Franklin invented the lightning rod, which attracts lightning and draws it into the ground. This saves many buildings from burning down.
  • The first true electric battery was built in 1779. Alessandro Volta invented the first source of continuous electric current in his experiments with non-static electricity. He created a battery out of stacks of zinc and copper, with weak acids in between each layer.

Thomas Edison, who is a scientist from Michigan discovered electiricity.