You are here:

FREE Newsletter

Inventors Timeline of Electricity - Electronic Inventions
Return Electricity
Year Event
600 B.C. Thales of Miletus writes about amber becoming charged by rubbing - he was describing what we now call static electricity.
1600 English scientist, William Gilbert first coined the term "electricity" from the Greek word for amber. Gilbert wrote about the electrification of many substances  in his "De magnete, magneticisique corporibus". He also first used the terms electric force, magnetic pole, and electric attraction.
1660 Otto von Guericke invented a machine that produced static electricity.
1675 Robert Boyle discovered that electric force could be transmitted through a vacuum and observed attraction and repulsion.
1729 Stephen Gray's discovery of the conduction of electricity.
1733  Charles Francois du Fay discovered that electricity comes in two forms which he called resinous(-)and vitreous(+). Benjamin Franklin and Ebenezer Kinnersley later renamed the two forms as positive and negative.
  • Georg Von Kleist discovered that electricity was controllable.
  • Dutch physicist, Pieter van Musschenbroek invented the "Leyden Jar" the first electrical capacitor. Leyden jars store static electricity.
  • Benjamin Franklin experiments with static charges in the air and theorized about the existence of an electrical fluid that could be composed of particles.
  • William Watson discharged a Leyden jar through a circuit, that began the comprehension of current and circuit.
  • Henry Cavendish started measuring the conductivity of different materials
1752 Benjamin Franklin invented the lightening rod - he demonstrated lightning was electricity.
1767 Joseph Priestley discovered that electricity followed Newton's inverse-square law of gravity.
1786 Italian physician, Luigi Galvani demonstrated what we now understand to be the electrical basis of nerve impulses when he made frog muscles twitch by jolting them with a spark from an electrostatic machine.
1800 First electric battery invented by Alessandro Volta. Volta proved that electricity could travel over wires.
1816 First energy utility in US founded.
  • Relationship of electricity and magnetism confirmed by Hans Christian Oersted who observed that electrical currents effected the needle on a compass
  • and Marie Ampere, who discovered that a coil of wires acted like a magnet when a current is passed thorough it.
  • D. F. Arago invented the electromagnet.
1821 First electric motor (Faraday).
1826 Ohms Law (Georg Simon Ohm) - "conduction law that relates potential, current, and circuit resistance"
1827 Joseph Henry's electromagnetic experiments lead to the concept of electrical inductance. Joseph Henry built one of the first electrical motors.
1831 Principles of electromagnetism induction, generation and transmission discovered (Michael Faraday).
1837 First industrial electric motors.
1839 First fuel cell.
1841 J. P. Joule's law of electrical heating published.
1873 James Clerk Maxwell wrote equations that described the electromagnetic field, and predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves traveling with the speed of light.
1878 Edison Electric Light Co. (US) and American Electric and Illuminating (Canada) founded.
  • First commercial power station opens in San Francisco, uses Charles Brush generator and arc lights.
  • First commercial arc lighting system installed, Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Thomas Edison demonstrates his incandescent lamp, Menlo Park, New Jersey.
  • First power system isolated from Edison.
  • Grand Rapids Michigan: Brush arc light dynamo driven by water turbine used to provide theater and storefront illumination.
1881 Niagra Falls, New York; Brush dynamo, connected to turbine in Quigley's flour mill lights city street lamps.
  • Transformer invented.
  • Edison introduces "three-wire" transmission system.
1884 Steam turbine invented.
  • William Stanley develops transformer and Alternating Current electric system.
  • Frank Sprague builds first American transformer and demonstrates use of step up and step down transformers for long distance AC power transmission in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
  • Westinghouse Electric Company organized.
  • 40 to 50 water powered electric plants reported on line or under construction in the U.S. and Canada.
1887 San Bernadino, California; High Grove Station, first hydroelectric plant in the West.
1888 Rotating field AC alternator invented by Nikola Tesla.
1889 Oregon City Oregon, Willamette Falls station, first AC hydroelectric plant. Single phase power transmitted 13 miles to Portland at 4,000 volts, stepped down to 50 volts for distribution.
1891 60 cycle AC system introduced in U.S.
1892 General Electric Company formed by the merger of Thomson-Houston and Edison General Electric.
  • Westinghouse demonstrates "universal system" of generation and distribution at Chicago exposition.
  • Austin, Texas; First dam designed specifically for hydroelectric power built across Colorado River is completed.
1897 Electron discovered by J. J. Thomson.
1900 Highest voltage transmission line 60 Kilovolt.
1902 5-Megawatt turbine for Fisk St. Station (Chicago).
  • First successful gas turbine (France).
  • World’s first all turbine station (Chicago).
  • Shawinigan Water & Power installs world’s largest generator (5,000 Watts) and world’s largest and highest voltage line—136 Km and 50 Kilovolts (to Montreal).
  • Electric vacuum cleaner.
  • Electric washing machine.
1904 John Ambrose Fleming invented the diode rectifier vacuum tube.
1905 Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; First low head hydro plant with direct connected vertical shaft turbines and generators.
1906 Ilchester, Maryland; Fully submerged hydroelectric plant built inside Ambursen Dam.
1907 Lee De Forest invented the electric amplifier.
1909 First pumped storage plant (Switzerland).
1910 Ernest R. Rutherford measured the distribution of an electric charge within the atom.
  • Air conditioning.
  • R. D. Johnson invents differential surge tank and Johnson hydrostatic penstock valve.
  • Electric refrigerator.
  • Robert Millikan measured the electric charge on a single electron.
1917 Hydracone draft tube patented by W. M. White.
  • First U.S. station to only burn pulverized coal.
  • Federal Power Commission (FPC).
1922 Connecticut Valley Power Exchange (CONVEX) starts, pioneering interconnection between utilities.
  • Construction of Boulder Dam begins.
  • Federal Trade Commission begins investigation of holding companies.
1933 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) established.
  • Public Utility Holding Company Act.
  • Federal Power Act.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Bonneville Power Administration.
  • First night baseball game in major leagues.
  • Highest steam temperature reaches 900 degrees Fahrenheit vs. 600 degrees Fahrenheit in early 1920s.
  • 287 Kilovolt line runs 266 miles to Boulder (Hoover) Dam.
  • Rural Electrification Act.
1947 Transistor invented.
  • First 345 Kilovolt transmission line.
  • First nuclear power station ordered.
  • First high voltage direct current (HVDC) line (20 megawatts/1900 Kilovolts, 96 Km).
  • Atomic Energy Act of 1954 allows private ownership of nuclear reactors.
1963 Clean Air Act.
1965 Northeast Blackout.
1968 North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) formed.
1969 National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed.
  • Water and Environmental Quality Act.
  • Clean Air Act of 1970.
1972 Clean Water Act of 1972.
1975 Brown’s Ferry nuclear accident.
  • New York City blackout.
  • Department of Energy (DOE) formed.
  • Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) passed, ends utility monopoly over generation.
  • Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act limits use of natural gas in electric generation (repealed 1987).
1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
  • First U.S. windfarm.
  • Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act establishes regional regulation and planning.
1981 PURPA ruled unconstitutional by Federal judge.
1982 U.S. Supreme Court upholds legality of PURPA in FERC v. Mississippi (456 US 742).
1984 Annapolis, N.S., tidal power plant—first of its kind in North America (Canada).
1985 Citizens Power, first power marketer, goes into business.
1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident (USSR).
1990 Clean Air Act amendments mandate additional pollution controls.
1992 National Energy Policy Act.
  • ISO New England begins operation (first ISO).
  • New England Electric sells power plants (first major plant divestiture).
  • California opens market and ISO.
  • Scottish Power (UK) to buy Pacificorp, first foreign takeover of US utility. National (UK) Grid then announces purchase of New England Electric System.
  • Electricity marketed on Internet.
  • FERC issues Order 2000, promoting regional transmission.
Subscribe to the Newsletter

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!

Important disclaimer information about this About site.

Newsletters & RSSEmail to a friendAdd to
All Topics | Email Article | |
Our Story | Be a Guide | Advertising Info | News & Events | Work at About | Site Map | Reprints | Help
User Agreement | Ethics Policy | Patent Info. | Privacy Policy | Kids' Privacy Policy

©2006 About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
Mental Health

Depression Self-Test Vitamins for Depression? Bipolar Red Flags Coping With Disasters Celebrities With Bipolar

What's Hot

Gyroscopes - Elmer Sperry and Charles Stark Draper Gyroscope...Angel AlcalaThe History of the BikiniRusi Taleyarkhan Jack Johnson