A Timeline of the History of Electricity and Electronics

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  • January 13, 2020
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Michael Faraday

A timeline of the history of electricity and electronics:

Electrical and electronics discoveries seems to have a very long history. In  2750 BC, ancient texts from Egypt described electric fish and identified them with thunder. This is the first known history in the context. Firstly, let’s have a look in the timeline of important events in electrical and electronic engineering.

Before 1800:

1600- William Gilbert, an English scientist, coined the word ‘electricus’

1705- English scientist Francis Hauksbee made a glass ball that glowed when spun and rubbed with the hand

1720- English scientist Stephen Gray made the distinction between insulators and conductors

1729- Stephen Gray shows that electricity doesn’t have to be made in place by rubbing but can also be transferred from place to place with conducting wires. He also shows that the charge on electrified objects resides on their surfaces.

1745- German physicist Ewald Georg von Kleist and Dutch scientist Pieter van Musschenbroek invented Leyden jars

1747- Benjamin Franklin invents the theory of one-fluid electricity in which one of Nollet’s fluids exists and the other is just the absence of the first. He proposes the principle of conservation of charge and calls the fluid that exists and flows “positive”. He also discovers that electricity can act at a distance in situations where fluid flow makes no sense.

1752- American scientist Benjamin Franklin showed that lightning was electrical by flying a kite, and explained how Leyden jars work

1775- Henry Cavendish invents the idea of capacitance and resistance

1780- Italian scientist Luigi Galvani discovered the Galvanic action in living tissue.

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.

1793-Italian physicist Alessandro Volta makes the first batteries and argues that animal electricity is just ordinary electricity flowing through the frog legs under the impetus of the force produced by the contact of dissimilar metals.

From 1800:

1800- Alessandro Volta invented the battery

1816- English inventor Francis Ronalds built the first working electric telegraph

1821- English physicist Michael Faraday begins electrical work by repeating Oersted’s experiments. First electric motor.


1831- Michael Faraday published the law of induction

1833- Michael Faraday developed laws of electrolysis and invented thermistor

1834- Michael Faraday discovers self-inductance.

1844- American inventor Samuel Morse developed telegraphy and the Morse code

1845-Michael Faraday discovers that the plane of polarization of light is rotated when it travels in a glass along the direction of the magnetic lines of force produced by an electromagnet (Faraday rotation).

1846- Faraday discovers diamagnetism. He sees the effect in heavy glass, bismuth, and other materials.

1850- A engineer from Belgium, Floris Nollet invented a practical AC generator

1860- Johann Reis, a German scientist, invented microphone

1861- Maxwell publishes a mechanical model of the electromagnetic field.

1862- Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell published four equations bearing his name

1866- First transatlantic telegraph cable built

1876- Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone

1878- Edison Electric Light Co. (US) and American Electric and Illuminating (Canada) founded.

1879- Sir William Crookes invents the radiometer and studies the interaction of beams of cathode ray particles in vacuum tubes.

November 4, 1879- Thomas Alva Edison introduced a long-lasting filament for the incandescent lamp.

1888- German physicist Heinrich Hertz proves the existence of electromagnetic waves, including what would come to be called radio waves.

1890- Thomas Alva Edison invents the fuse.

1894- Indian physicist Jagadish Chandra Bose introduced the use of semiconductor junction to detect radio waves.

1896- First successful intercontinental telegram

From 1900:

1901- First transatlantic radio transmission by Guglielmo Marconi

1904- John Ambrose Fleming from England invented diode

1906- Lee de Forest, an American inventor invented triode

1934- Akira Nakajima from Japan gave switching circuit theory which lays foundations for digital electronics.

1947- John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain from America, together with their group leader William Shockley invented the transistor.

1958- American engineer Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit (IC)

1962- Nick Holonyak Jr invented the LED

1986- Breakthrough on superconductor


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