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How was electricity invented?

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Quick Answer

Electricity is a naturally occurring energy, and a physician named William Gilbert was the first to study it. Gilbert called electricity "electrica" in his famous writings on electricity and magnetism. Benjamin Franklin is often credited for discovering electricity due to his experiments on the relation between electricity and lightning.

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William Gilbert's findings on electricity influenced other scientists, including the French scientist Charles Francois Du Fay, the English scientist Stephen Gray and the German scientist Otto von Guericke. In 1660, Otto van Guericke invented the first electric generator, which created static electricity. Stephen Gray then discovered the principle of the conduction of electricity in 1729. Charles Francois du Fay discovered that electricity came in positive or negative charges in 1733. Before William Gilbert's research, electricity was only a curiosity. For example, people would rub amber on a cat's fur, and notice that a mysterious force attracted feathers.

Benjamin Franklin discovered that electricity and lightning are the same thing. His lightning rod was the first practical application of electricity, and was a crucial step towards modern electricity. Over the years, many other scientists and inventors performed experiments and worked to turn electricity into a usable energy, including Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Heinrich Hertz and Nikola Tesla. Albert Einstein discovered the law of the photoelectric effect, which was used to make commercial electricity possible. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for this in 1921.

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