The evolution of electricity

We’re all increasingly dependent on electricity. In fact, these days we expect it wherever we go for things like charging our phone or tablet. But how did our great, great, great Grandparents cope? What electricity did they have, if any?


Let’s take a whistle-stop tour of our favourite commodity’s evolution…

Way, way back:

2750 BCE – The Ancient Egyptians knew of fish which gave out electric shocks and described them as the protectors of all fish. They were aware of electricity but at this point it was a bit of an enigma.

600 BC – Jump forward ‘a few’ years and we have the first known researcher of electricity, Thales of Miletus who looked into static electricity.

1600 – It was a while until further studies were conducted, with English scientist William Gilbert first developing the term ‘electricity’ from the Greek word for amber in 1600.

So that’s the first basic steps for the electricity we’ve come to be so fond of, but when did we start to put it to use?

The 19th century saw lots of progress and the start of electrical engineering. You’ll probably recognise names like James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan. These people, amongst others, sped up the development of electricity into something used in everyday life, spurring on the Second Industrial Revolution.


Thomas Edison opened the first power plant in 1882 and throughout the 1900s there was no stopping the demand electricity, with it starting out in wealthy households and rolling out to the wider public after the Second World War. With this came the rapid invention of many of household appliances that we still use today, a lot of which have the same principles and are just upgraded versions!

With electricity powering a lot of things that we do, it’s important to be cautious about using it responsibly. We have some great tips on energy saving here.

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