Electrical

Introduction to the History of Electricity and Electronics

History of Electricity and Electronics

Introduction to the History of Electricity and Electronics- The credit for the most important and pioneering discovery related to static electricity goes to Sir William Gilbert (1540 – 1603). Gilbert was an English physician, who explained in his book published in 1600 AD how an amber differs from a load stone regarding attracting or pulling different types of materials. He proved that when amber is rubbed with a piece of cloth, it attracts light items towards itself, whereas load stone only attracts or pulls only iron-made items towards itself. Gilbert also discovered that other items, e.g., Sulphur, glass, and resin also behave like amber. He used the Latin word “Electron” for amber and for other items which also work just like amber, he specified the word “Electrica” for them. The word “Electricity” was first of all used by Sir Thomas Brown (1605 – 1682). Sir Thomas was an English physician. Another Englishman Stephen Grey (1696 – 1736) discovered that some items are capable of transmitting electricity, while some other items are unable to do so. After this, Frenchman Charles Dewey conducted experiments on the conduction of electricity. As a result of these experiments, he came to know that there are two types of electricity. He termed the first type vitreous electricity while the second type resinous electricity. He observed that items charged through vitreous electricity repel each other, whereas items that are charged through resinous electricity, attract each other. Nowadays, these two types of electricity are known as two types of charge, which are called positive and negative charges. Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) continued his experiments on electricity till 1750. He propounded the theory that electricity consists of a single fluid. And, he was the first person who used the terms positive and negative charges. He demonstrated through a famous kite experiment that lighting is also a form of electricity. Charles Augustin De Coulomb (1736 – 1806) was a French physician. He evolved laws related to attraction and repelling between the electrically charged bodies, therefore, the unit of electrical charge is still known as a coulomb even today.




In 1800, Asunder Volta (1745 – 1827), who was a professor of physics in Italy, discovered that electricity is generated as a result of a chemical reaction between moisture and two different metals. Volta manufactured the first battery, which contained copper and zinc plates. A paper was placed between these plates. To generate moisture, he saturated plates in a salt solution. This battery, which is known as a Voltic pile, was the first source of DC. In recognition of his unparalleled services, the unit of electric potential is nowadays known by his name i.e., Volt.  

A Danish scientist, Hans Christian Oersted (1777 – 1851) has the honor of discovering electromagnetism in 1820. He observed that when electric current flows through a wire, the compass hand moves as a result. It revealed the point that an electric field tends to exist around a current-carrying conductor, and this field is generated as a result of current. The modern unit of an electric current is known as an ampere. This name has been associated with a French physician “And Ampere” (1775 – 1836). In 1820, Ampere conducted a measurement of the magnetic effect of an electrical current. He discovered that two current-carrying wires either mutually repel or attract each other (analogous to two magnetics). In 1822, Ampere devised basic laws for the study of electricity.

The most famous and most commonly used law being applied in electrical nowadays is Ohm’s law. This law was described by a German teacher Jerseymen Ohm (1787 – 1854) in 1826. We can know about the relationship existing among three basic electrical quantities i.e., resistance, voltage, and current, through Ohm’s law.

Although the person who discovered electromagnetism was Oersted, however Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) promoted this research work. Faraday was an English physician, who firmly believed that electricity can produce magnetic effects, thus electricity can also be generated through magnetism. In 1836, he observed that if a wire coil lying in a magnetic field is moved (or if the magnet is pushed) then an electric current is generated within this coil as a consequence of this movement. Nowadays, this effect is generally known as an electromagnetic induction, which is a basic principle behind the working of a generator and a transformer.



Joseph Henry (1797 – 1870) was an American physician, who introduced this principle in 1831 as a result of his sheer individual efforts. In recognition of his services, the induction unit was named “Henry”, whereas the capacitance unit “Farad” has been associated with Michael Faraday. 

In 1860, James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879) who was a Scottish physician, introduced a set of arithmetic equations, which tended to reflect the laws of electricity as well as magnetism. These equations or formulae are generally known as Maxwell’s equations. Maxwell also predicted that electromagnetic waves (radio waves) which travel in space at a speed of electricity, can also be generated. This prediction of Maxwell was finally proved truthful by German scientist Henry Rudolf Hertz (1837 – 1894) and he got the distinction of generating these waves in 1880. These days, the frequency unit “Hertz” has also been associated with his name.

Beginning of Electronics 

The first experiments in electronics started with the flow of electric current in glass tubes. The first person, who carried out these types of experiments, Henry Gelssier (1814 – 1879) was a German scientist. Gelssier discovered that when a large quantity of air is sucked out from a glass tube, and an electric potential is provided parallel to this tube, then the tube becomes illuminated.

Around 1878, Sir William Crookes 1832 – 1919), who was a British scientist, also carried out experiments on tubes just like Gelssier. Crookes discovered from his experiments that current transmitting through the tubes seems to consist of particles.



Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931) invented another important thing while conducting experiments on the carbon filament light bulb (which was also invented by him). He penetrated a small metal plate inside the tube, when the plate was provided a positive charge, then the current continued to flow from the filament towards the plate. This instrument was the first thermionic diode of its kind.

In 1890, the electron was discovered. French physician Jane Baptist Parron (1870 – 1942) clarified the point that current in any vacuum tube comprises negatively charged particles. Some of the characteristics or features of these particles were introduced by a British physician Sir Jeffen Thomas (1856 – 1940) through various experiments conducted from 1895 to 1897. These negatively charged particles later came to be known as electrons. The accurate measurement of charge being found on the electron was carried out by an American physician Robert A. Milchan (1868 – 1953 in 1909. As a result of these discoveries, an electronic era was ushered in by means of controlling an electron. 

Vacuum tubes that let an electrical current pass in the same direction were invented by a Britain scientist John A. Fleming in 1904. This tube is used for the detection of electromagnetic waves. This is known as a “Fleming Valve”. This tube proved to be a starting point for the discovery of other vacuum tubes (which are available nowadays). However, the major development in the electronics field awaited the invention of an instrument, which could boost or amplify a weak electromagnetic signal. This gadget was Audlon, which was invented by an American DeForest (1873 – 1961) in 1907. This was actually a triode vacuum tube, which had the capability of magnifying weak electrical signals.

Two other Americans Harold Arnold and Arwing Leng More (1881 – 1956) created substantial improvements in triode tubes during the period 1912 to 1914. In the meantime, DeForest and Adon Armstrong (who was an electrical engineer) used a triode tube in an oscillator circuit. In 1914, the application of triode was started in the telephone system. A German, Walter Scotchy invented the tetrode tube in 1916. Tetrode along with pentode (which was invented by a German engineer Benjamin D.H Tele Gun in 1926) proved more effective than a triode. The first television picture tube, which is generally known as the kinescope, was invented by an American researcher Walid Marzorkan in 1920. During the second world war, several types of microwave tubes were designed, and as a result of this modern microwave radars and other communication systems became possible. In 1939, two Britain citizens Henry Bot and John Rendell invented Magnetron. During the same year, two American brothers Russel Warren and Sigurd Warren invented the Klystron microwave tube. The traveling wave tube was invented by an American Rudolf in 1943.



Computer and Solid-State Electronics

 Perhaps the computer has gained the highest spot in modern technology above any other electronic system. The first digital electronic computer was completed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. The crystal detectors being used in the old radios proved a precursor for modern solid-state devices. However, with the invention of a transistor in Bell Lab in 1947, an era of solid-state electronics kicked off. Transistor was invented by Walter Britain, John Bardin, and William Shockley.

During the beginning of 1960, integrated circuits were manufactured. Thus, the formation of numerous transistors and other components on a small semi-conductor material made the chip became possible. More complicated circuits were started to be produced on a tiny chip through a rapid improvement and betterment of integrated circuits technology. At the beginning of 1970, another revolution occurred in the electronic world with the introduction of a microprocessor. Thus, the manufacturing of a complete processing portion of a computer became possible on a very tiny, single silicon chip. As a result of consistent development, nearly an entire computer system was shifted onto a single chip after 1970.

Both electricity, as well as electronics, are massively being used nowadays in almost every walk of life, however, their application in computers, communication, automation, medicines, and consumer products e.g., electronics, calculators, digital watches, automobiles, microwave ovens, washers, televisions, radios, stereo recorders, and children’s toys, etc. is most prevalent.

Next Topic: Electron Theory: Principles & Applications

Engr Fahad

My name is Shahzada Fahad and I am an Electrical Engineer. I have been doing Job in UAE as a site engineer in an Electrical Construction Company. Currently, I am running my own YouTube channel "Electronic Clinic", and managing this Website. My Hobbies are * Watching Movies * Music * Martial Arts * Photography * Travelling * Make Sketches and so on...

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