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Electricity History

Electricity has expanded in use far beyond its original discovery

People in many parts of the world are surrounded by gadgets, appliances, and machines run by electricity and just about every place where we live or work as well as places of entertainment, both indoors and outdoors, we can see electricity in action.

Almost every aspect of human activities seems to depend on electricity for existence.

The Latin word, electrum, means to "produce from amber by friction"; so, we get our English word electricity from Greek and Latin words that were both about amber.

Electricity came from an ancient Greek word that means "produced by amber" and that Greek word was in existence many centuries before electricity was actually developed by humans.

Why did the discoverers of electricity choose such an old word for something so new? Amber came from tree resin that hardened over centuries and when it was rubbed, amber produced static electricity and attracted light objects.

Amber is a golden brown "stone" that sparkles orange and yellow in sunlight and it is actually fossilized tree sap!

Millions of years ago insects got stuck in the tree sap and those small insects which had bitten the dinosaurs are now fossilized in the amber.

The ancient Greeks observed this characteristic of amber and had a word for it, without knowing what caused it; that is, elektron which became our word, "electricity".

The current term for "electricity" is derived from the word electrica, first used by William Gilbert (1544-1603) in his epoch-making treatise De magnete, magneticisque corporibus, et de magno magnete tellure, published in 1600, to denote substances which possess a similar property to amber = electrum referring to attracting light objects when rubbed.

Benjamin Franklin introduced the concept of "positive electricity" and "negative electricity", and in 1752, he showed that lightning and electricity were the same components.

In the 19th century, a great number of industrial applications were introduced, based on magnetic, chemical, thermal, optical, and other properties of electricity.

As a consequence of electricity and electronics, the world has become a "global village" where anything happening in the remotest part of the world can be known to the whole world instantly, and people from all areas of the earth can interact and discuss matters of common interest in "real time".

—Compiled from various sources as seen in this
Electronic Bibliography page.
This entry is located in the following unit: electro-, electr-, electri- (page 22)