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"🎶 When you're in the dark and you want to see
Well now flip that switch and what do you get?
~ Schoolhouse Rock! Electricity, 1973
Electrical Engineers, Science Teachers, and Storm Chasers take note! Electricity Day takes place on the anniversary of the date in 1752 when Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm, intent on proving that lightning was caused by a discharge of electricity! Natural forms of electricity have been observed since ancient times. The Greeks first discovered the effects of electric charge about 3000 years ago, giving us the word "elektron", which refers to amber, the yellow fossilized tree resin, which was known to attract lightweight objects (via static charge) such as feather or straw when rubbed against woo! Lightning is essentially a form of discharge of a giant static electricity shock and has been an issue for the general populace throughout history especially as buildings and monuments grew taller, attracting strikes to church steeples and other high buildings which often caught fire! To address this problem, during the 1780s, the lightning rod was effectively invented simultaneously by both Benjamin Franklin and Prokop Diviš. Lightning rods became such an item of interest that they were even incorporated into Parisian fashion! Gentlemen and ladies donned protective top hats and umbrellas or parasols with personal lightning rods, featuring a tall wire with a coil that trailed to the ground! According to NASA, there are about 44 (±5) lightning strikes per second and over 1.4 billion flashes annually! Lake Maracaibo, a huge brackish tidal estuary within Venezuela, produces more lightning than any other area in the world. This weather phenomenon, called Catatumbo lightning, occurs in about 160 nights annually, results in over 280 lightning strikes per hour, lasting for 10 hours every day. Crackle, crackle! Zap Zap! ⚡⚡⚡
This tartan, designed by Carol Martin, represents the crackle of electricity in the colours of eletric lime, electric indigo, and electric purple against a dark void.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867) along with Nikoa Tesla and Thomas Edison are often referred to as the "Father(s) of Electricity.
Faraday in particular, never had a formal education yet became one of the most influential thinkers in history and discovered and characterized the laws of electromagnetism, invented the first electric motor, and built the first electric generator!
By 1820, other scientists had shown that an electric current produces a magnetic field, and that two electrified wires produce a force on each other. Faraday believed thought there might be a way to harness these forces in a mechanical apparatus. In 1822, he built a device using a magnet, liquid mercury, and a current-carrying wire that turned electrical energy into mechanical energy - the first electric motor.
A decade later, Faraday discovered that the movement of a wire through a stationary magnetic field can induce an electrical current in the wire - electromagnetic induction. To demonstrate, Faraday built a machine in which a copper disc rotated between the two poles of a horseshoe magnet, producing its own power. The machine, later called the Faraday disc, became the first electric generator.
Faraday's work was so groundbreaking few descriptors existed for many of his discoveries. With his fellow scientist William Whewell, Faraday coined a number of words for the forces and concepts he identified, such as electrode, anode, cathode, and ion.
For more on how animals use electricity, click the Tesla coil!