For hundreds of years, electricity has fascinated scientists. Around 600BC, Greek philosophers discovered that, by rubbing amber against a cloth, lightweight objects would stick to the cloth. In a similar way, rubbing a balloon on a cloth makes the balloon stick to other objects. This is called static electricity.
It was not until around the 17th century, that any real research was done on this phenomenon by some of the world's greatest electricity geniuses.
Born in 1706 in Boston, USA, Benjamin Franklin is most famous for his curiosity and experimentation with electrity. In his earlier years, he was fascinated by weather patterns and storms. From observing these storms, he became interested in lightning. As an inventor, Benjamin was most noted for his famous kite flight experiment. He suspected that lightning was an electrical current coming from nature. On a stormy day in June 1752, he decided to test his theory using a child's toy kite and a metal key. Sparks were produced when the lightning hit the metal key, proving that lightning was a stream of electrified air. Don't try Benjamin's experiment at home. He was lucky he didn't receive an electric shock. It is dangerous!
The first incandescent electric light was made in 1800 by Humphry Davy, an English scientist. But it was inventor Thomas Edison (in the USA) who experimented with thousands of different materials to find just the right materials to glow well and be long-lasting. In 1879, Edison discovered that a carbon filament in an oxygen-free bulb glowed, but did not burn up, for 40 hours. Edison eventually produced a bulb that could glow for more than 1,500 hours. The incandescent bulb revolutionised the world.
An Italian nobleman named Alesandro Volta invented the electric battery. Volta discovered in 1800 that certain fluids would generate a continuous flow of electrical power when used as conductors. This discovery led to the invention of the first voltaic cell, more commonly known as the battery. Volta discovered further that the voltage would increase when voltaic cells were stacked on top of each other. An important electrical measurement, the volt, is named after him.
A New Zealand scientist, Ernest Rutherford, has been called the father of nuclear science and is referred to as the man who ‘split the atom'. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908 for his discoveries about atoms, radioactivity and nuclear physics. His work contributed to scientists later discovering how to use nuclear energy to generate electricity.
The electrical measurement, the ‘amp', is named after André Ampère. He was a French mathematician and physicist who discovered, in the early 1800s, that two wires carrying current attract and repel each other like magnets do. He also worked out all the laws for the basis of electrical science.