What was used to first discover electricity


Of magic and witchcraft

A few hundred years ago, people didn't know there was electricity. Electrical phenomena such as lightning and thunder, will-o'-the-wisps or the spark discharges on ship masts called the Elmsfeuer - everything that could not be directly explained was attributed to magical powers.

Myths and legends told of ships that were misdirected by magnetic forces, of mysterious will-o'-the-wisps and angry gods who sent lightning and thunderstorms to the earth to express their displeasure. Superstition flourished, and there was still no trace of any scientific attempt to explain it.

Static electricity

Today we know that friction between certain materials creates electrostatic forces. Static electricity is, among other things, the basis of electricity theory.

The engineer and inventor Otto von Guericke, best known for his experiments with air pressure, was one of the first researchers to find out in the 17th century that one can generate electricity through friction.

He constructed a sulfur ball electrifying machine with which he visibly generated electricity by rubbing his hands on a moving sulfur ball. So he could not only prove the electrical attraction, but also create an electric glow.

His impressive machine was followed by many other electrifying machines, with the help of which scientists and entertainers in the Age of Enlightenment offered a noble audience excitement with high entertainment value.

At the same time, however, new knowledge about electricity could be gained. It is not for nothing that the designation of the epoch in many languages ​​has something to do with electricity: The German "Enlightenment" and the English "Enlightenment" correspond roughly to "Enlightenment" or "Enlightenment", and the French "Lumière" can also be referred to as "light" translate.

Benjamin Franklin and the lightning rod

Despite the great similarity between electrically generated sparks and natural lightning bolts from the sky, thunderstorms and lightning bolts were long considered natural forces and were ascribed to gods and magicians. To this day, they impress us on the one hand and make us shudder on the other.

In order to prove that lightning is not divine punishment, but a phenomenon of natural electricity, the politician and scientist Benjamin Franklin tried to divert lightning from the sky.

He had been studying electrical phenomena since the 1740s. Finally, in 1752, during a thunderstorm, he let a kite fly with a metal thread tied into the string with a key hanging from it.

His attempt was successful: Franklin was actually able to tap the atmospheric electricity and use his metallic conductor to fetch electricity from the sky.

This enlightenment was celebrated in some places as a victory over the magical powers: Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod! But this remained controversial for a long time, with evil tongues initially claiming that lightning rods would attract lightning and thereby cause damage in the first place.

That has long been disproved - even today, dangerous lightning strikes from roof tops are diverted into the ground by lightning rods.

Electrodynamics: Motors and Movement

Finally, in the 19th century, one insight followed another. In 1800, Alessandro Volta succeeded in refuting Galvani's theory. Luigi Galvani believed that he could prove animal electricity through experiments with frog legs connected to electricity.

Volta found out that the frogs were only electrical conductors and henceforth let electricity flow through electrical conductors. And he invented the Volta column, which is considered to be the first battery: each connected by a felt disc soaked in sulfuric acid, he layered copper and zinc discs on top of each other in a narrow glass column.

Shortly afterwards, a completely new phase of electricity began: Although the ancient Greeks had already noticed both amber and magnets, magnetic force had been forgotten.

Only in the 19th century did the close connection between electricity and magnetism come into focus. A new type of electricity was explored: electromagnetism. Scientists like Michael Faraday, Hans Christian Oerstedt, Thomas A. Edison or Hendrik Antoon Lorentz outdid each other in explanations about magnetic force and electricity.

Eventually they took a big step: They discovered that electricity flows through a wire when it is moved by a magnetic field. Magnetic force now made it possible to generate electricity with movement - the electric generator and dynamo were invented.

A generator converts movement that is generated, for example, by a steam engine or wind energy, into electricity.

On the other hand, electricity could also be converted back into motion, which led to the birth of the electric motor. Electrodynamic processes that work with the help of magnetic force, i.e. generators and electric motors, are the basis of modern generation and use of electrical energy.