Q:

How was electricity discovered?

A:

Although knowledge about the existence of electricity existed as early as 600 B.C., it was not until 1600 that William Gilbert published "De magnete, Magneticisique Corporibus," or "On the Magnet" and coined the term "electrica." Before Gilbert, knowledge was limited to that of the magnetic charges of a loadstone and that rubbing an amber or a jet rod with wool caused particles to stick to the rod.

Gilbert's publication inspired other European inventors to work with electricity. The Leyden jar allowed scientists to store static electric charges in a type of capacitor. The stored charge was significant enough that it knocked its inventor, Ewald Christian Von Kleist, to the floor when he initially touched it.

Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning and electricity were the same phenomenon, which led to the invention of the lightning rod and the first practical use of the growing knowledge about electricity. Alessandro Volta built the first electric pile, a forerunner of the battery, which allowed scientists to conduct simple electrical current experiments. In 1819, Hans Christian Oersted discovered electromagnetic fields. His work led to Michael Faraday's invention of the first crude electrical motor in 1921 and the first generator 10 years later. The first electrical power stations were built approximately 50 years later.

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