Who Invented Electricity? and other energy facts (2023)

Click the questions to expand the answers.

Who discovered electricity?

English scientist William Gilbert discovered electricity around the year 1600. Prior to that time, people were aware of static electricity and shocks from “electric fish.” Gilbert conducted many experiments on electricity and magnetism. His findings shattered many of the scientific beliefs at the time. He came up with the word “electricity.”

In the mid-1700s Benjamin Franklin conducted extensive research and increased understanding of electricity. In June 1752, he famously tied a metal key to the bottom of a wet kite string and flew it during a thunderstorm. The electricity in the air from the storm caused sparks to jump from the key to the back of his hand, confirming that lightning was electrical in nature. He’s lucky lightning did not actually strike the kite – if it had, he’d probably have been killed!

Learn more about the history of energy


It's called "phantom energy."

All of the things in our home or car that are plugged in can be using energy, even when not in use or turned off. This is called phantom energy. Phantom energy can be scary for the energy bill your parents pay, but no actual phantoms or ghosts are involved. Our devices keep using energy in this state because all of those electronics are standing by, ready to jump back to life when you need them. In fact, your TV’s phantom (or standby) usage can make up to 10% of its total power usage.

The journey can be hundreds of miles.

It's always there whenever you flip a switch or plug in a cord, but electricity has to travel a long way to get to your house. In fact, the generating station where your electricity is made might be hundreds of miles away!

Electricity is carried to your home through a system of wires and poles called the power grid.

Learn more about electricity’s journey

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Don't be an energy hog.

You can help save energy by turning off the lights when you leave a room, not leaving the refrigerator door open, or helping your parents plant a tree to shade your house so you don’t need to use as much air conditioning.

Energy costs money and uses resources. Saving energy is good for your family and good for the earth.

Learn more about saving energy at home

Renewable energy comes from a variety of sources. One thing they all have in common is that they don’t run out. Wind, solar (sun), hydro (water), biomass (natural material) and geothermal (earth) are the most common examples of renewable energy.

Learn more about renewable energy

It started millions of years ago.

The creation of natural gas started when dinosaurs roamed the earth. As dinosaurs, sea animals and plants died, they were buried over time by layers of sand and rock. These layers continued to build up. Pressure and heat turned them into oil and natural gas. That’s why they’re often referred to as “fossil” fuels.

Learn more about natural gas

Natural gas is actually odorless.

Gas companies add a chemical called mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs or skunk, to the gas so that we can smell it if it leaks.

Find out what it smells like! Ask an adult to order a scratch-and-sniff natural gas odor postcard.

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When gas leaks, it's an emergency situation.

Natural gas is very flammable, which means that if there’s a flame or spark near the leak, a fire or explosion could result. Because natural gas is lighter than air, it will float and spread out over open areas near the source of the leak. If you smell rotten eggs or a skunk-like smell, tell your parents and leave your home right away. An adult should call the gas company right away.

Learn more about natural gas safety

Electric shocks can be deadly.

An electric shock happens when you come in contact with a source of electrical energy. Electricity always wants to find the path of least resistance. Since water is a conductor – and since human bodies are 50 – 60% water – a shock can easily go through your body. When an electric shock occurs, your muscles tighten and your lungs constrict. Your heartbeat can be interrupted, and burns and internal organ damage can occur. You can even die.

Learn more about electric shock and how to stay safe

Most electric shocks occur from:

  • Using electricity near water.
  • Using electrical cords and appliances that are damaged.
  • Getting too close to power lines when climbing trees, climbing on a roof, using ladders or other tools.
  • Being too close to power lines that have fallen down after a storm or vehicle accident.
  • Being in or on backyard transformers or substation electrical equipment.

Learn more about electric safety

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Most power outages are caused by the weather.

Strong winds, ice storms and heavy snows can snap trees and power poles, which fall and break the lines. When this happens, power companies work quickly to restore power as soon it is safe to do so.

In a power outage situation, line workers are the heroes. These are the people who install, maintain and fix the power lines. They go out into danger – including snow storms and even hurricanes and tornadoes – to restore power.

A power outage is never fun (it stinks to not be able to use the TV for video games), but for certain situations it’s especially risky. Think about hospitals, who have hundreds of people to take care and need light to see. Or elderly people who live alone and might need oxygen devices to stay alive.

Sometimes the power company plans a power outage in a specific area in order to perform necessary work. This type of outage is rare and impacts only a small number of people at a time. People impacted by this type of outage are notified in advance.

Alliant Energy’s process to restore power

  • Make sure critical services, like police and fire departments, and hospitals have power.
  • Check generation facilities to determine if the original power source is still operating.
  • Repair transmission lines that carry electricity from the generation stations to substations.
  • Repair substations where high-voltage power from the transmission lines is reduced for home usage.
  • Repair distribution lines that carry electricity from substations to each neighborhood.
  • Repair the tap lines that serve anywhere from 20 to 300 homes and businesses.
  • Reconnect lines to individual customers - this is the most difficult and time-consuming step in the restoration process.

Carbon emissions are sometimes called "greenhouse gases."

Carbon emissions refer to the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released as a result of a human activity, such as burning fossil fuels like coal. Too much CO2 can act like a blanket in the atmosphere, trapping heat and raising the outdoor temperature. We can help reduce the amount of CO2 by saving energy, by using more renewable energy resources and less non-renewable energy sources.

Learn more about renewable energy

It takes a huge amount of energy to gather, purify and transport water. When we heat up water for showers and dishwashers, uses energy too. Cutting back on both energy and water use has a positive effect on the planet.

Learn how to conserve water

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The smart grid gets straight A's.

The smart grid uses digital communication to detect and react to changes in electricity usage at homes and businesses. For instance, a power outage can be communicated back to the power company instantly.

In contrast, a smart home has lighting, heating and electronics that can be controlled remotely by phone or computer.

The smart grid and smart home can interact with each other electronically via a smart meter , allowing homes and businesses to better manage their electricity usage.

Learn more about smart homes

It depends on the type of battery.

Regular alkaline batteries such as AA, AAA, C and D should be put in the trash . 9 volt batteries should be taped on their ends with masking, electrical or duct tape, as any remaining power could cause a spark. Take lithium or rechargeable batteries to your local solid waste agency for proper recycling.

Learn more about energy and recycling

Yes, a lot less!

Electric vehicles (EVs) are much more efficient. EVs convert up to 62% of the energy they use into moving the vehicle, while gas engines convert only 21% or less into movement. EVs also run on a rechargeable battery and produce no carbon dioxide, making them much better for the environment.

Learn more about electric vehicles

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FAQs

When was electricity 1st invented? ›

Who discovered electricity and when? The Industrial Revolution kick-started our use of human-generated electricity. Most people credit Benjamin Franklin with 'discovering' electricity in 1752, which he did by realising that the sparks emitted from lightning strikes could generate power.

Did you know facts about electrical energy? ›

Electricity facts and figures

Electricity travels at the speed of light, about 300,000 kilometres per second. A spark of static electricity can measure up to 3,000 volts. The average taser emits 50,000 volts. A bolt of lightning can measure up to three million (3,000,000) volts (and lasts less than one second).

What was the first energy source? ›

Technically, the first source of energy was the sun, as it provided heat and light during the day. However, in the U.S. wood was the first real source of energy consumption in 1775, until the use of coal came about in the 1850s.

Who invented electricity and how many times did he try? ›

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THOMAS EDISON:

As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.

How was energy created? ›

The energy in the atoms came from the nuclear reactions in the heart of the Sun. What started the nuclear reactions? Physicists think the Big Bang did. So the short answer is that the energy we encounter and use everyday has always been with us since the beginning of the universe and always will be with us.

Who first said electricity? ›

However, the term 'electricity' was coined by a guy called William Gilbert in 1600 to describe static electricity and there were also two other men, Benjamin Franklin and Michael Faraday who were at the forefront of its research and implementation.

What are 5 facts about electricity? ›

  • Ever wondered how fast does electricity travel? ...
  • Lightning is caused by the discharge of electricity in the atmosphere.
  • Electricity was first discovered in 600BC.
  • Electric cars actually date back as far as 1832.
  • Electric eels can produce up to a 600-volt shock.
  • 54% of all electricity is wasted.

What are 2 important facts about energy? ›

The average U.S. home uses about 11,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Electricity travels at the speed of light – over 186,000 miles per second. Electricity can be produced from fossil fuels, large hydro power plants, nuclear power plants, or renewables like wind or solar.

What is the oldest energy in the world? ›

The energy of the sun is the original source of most of the energy found on earth. We get solar heat energy from the sun, and sunlight can also be used to produce electricity from solar (photovoltaic) cells.

What is the history of energy? ›

The very first energy source was the sun, providing heat and light. Later a lightning strike sparked a fire. Fire was then used for many uses from cooking to an additional source of heat and light. More than 8,000 years ago, humans discovered that sails could be used to harness wind energy for transportation.

Why is energy important? ›

Energy is so important in our daily lives because it is a basic human need. We use energy to not only heat our human-made structures but we use it to cool them as well. Energy is necessary for getting up out of bed, walking down the street, or even lifting your finger.

Who failed 999 times? ›

Charles Kettering Quotes

An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.

Who failed 10000 times? ›

Later Edison became famous for saying “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.

Who discovered Energy? ›

Between 1842 and 1847, Julius Robert von Mayer , James Prescott Joule , and Hermann von Helmholtz discovered and formulated the basics of what we refer to today as the law of conservation of energy: Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed from one form to another.

Can light be destroyed? ›

Energy not be created nor be destroyed.

Can energy be lost? ›

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. This may suggest that we could always convert energy to whatever forms we need without ever worrying about using up our energy resources.

Can energy be destroyed? ›

The law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed - only converted from one form of energy to another. This means that a system always has the same amount of energy, unless it's added from the outside.

Who gave electricity its name? ›

Gilbert and Browne are credited with being the first scientists to use the term "electricity." Scientists have found evidence that ancient peoples may have experimented with electricity, too. In 1936, a clay pot was discovered that suggests that the first batteries may have been invented over 2,000 years ago.

What are the 4 types of electricity? ›

These days it even powers many of our cars. You could travel to the most uninhabited areas of the earth and still find it in the clouds above you during a storm. Electricity takes different forms: coal, water, solar, wind, nuclear, hydro and solar.

How did electricity get its name? ›

The Greeks first discovered electricity about 3000 years ago. Its name came from the word "elektron", which means amber. Amber is the yellow, fossilised rock you find in tree sap. The Greeks found that if they rubbed amber against wool, lightweight objects (such as straw or feathers) would stick to it.

What are the 7 form of energy? ›

Forms of energy include mechanical, chemical, electrical, electromagnetic, thermal, sound, and nuclear energy.

What are the 7 common of energy? ›

Energy exists in many different forms. Examples of these are: light energy, heat energy, mechanical energy, gravitational energy, electrical energy, sound energy, chemical energy, nuclear or atomic energy and so on.

What are the 7 source of energy? ›

Primary energy sources take many forms, including nuclear energy, fossil energy -- like oil, coal and natural gas -- and renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.

What are the 10 uses of electrical energy? ›

Here, some of the most notable uses of electricity daily are mentioned.
  • Entertainment.
  • Healthcare.
  • Engineering.
  • Transport and Communication.
  • Outdoors.
  • Household.
  • Commercial.
  • Office.

What is energy facts for kids? ›

Types and Forms of Energy

The energy is created when particles called electrons move from one atom to another. Heat and light are also forms of energy. One form of energy can also be transferred into another. Through a battery stored chemical energy changes into electric energy.

What are the 3 source of electricity? ›

The three major categories of energy for electricity generation are fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum), nuclear energy, and renewable energy sources. Most electricity is generated with steam turbines using fossil fuels, nuclear, biomass, geothermal, and solar thermal energy.

Are there 5 forms of energy? ›

Energy comes in six basic forms: chemical, electrical, radiant, mechanical, thermal and nuclear. In other research, you may find additional forms mentioned such as electrochemical, sound, electromagnetic and others.

Are there 10 forms of energy? ›

The different types of energy include thermal energy, radiant energy, chemical energy, nuclear energy, electrical energy, motion energy, sound energy, elastic energy and gravitational energy.

What are 5 important forms of energy? ›

The five forms of energy are as follows:
  • Electrical Energy.
  • Chemical Energy.
  • Mechanical Energy.
  • Thermal Energy.
  • Nuclear Energy.

Will oil run out? ›

As we commonly hear, coal, natural gas and oil are nonrenewable resources. Even though living material is dying all the time and getting buried, it obviously isn't feasible to wait millions of years for more fossil fuel stock to build up.

Will we run out of gas? ›

It is predicted that we will run out of fossil fuels in this century. Oil can last up to 50 years, natural gas up to 53 years, and coal up to 114 years. Yet, renewable energy is not popular enough, so emptying our reserves can speed up.

Will energy ever be created? ›

We say that energy is conserved: you can convert energy from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.

What is called energy? ›

Energy is the ability to do work

There are many different forms of energy, including: Heat. Light. Motion. Electrical.

Is fire a energy? ›

Fire is composed of several states of energy and matter, like sublimated matter turning into gases; or photons released on oxidization of matter; or sound is released via turbulence from convection; plasma occurs whenever the temperature ionizes atomic bonds and Sooty.

Can we live without energy? ›

Without energy, life would be impossible. There are different forms of energy. Potential energy is energy that is stored somewhere. A raised ball, for example, has potential energy by virtue of its position relative to the Earth.

What will happen without energy? ›

There would be no power to use your fridge or freezer, telephone lines would be down and phone signal lost. Your mobile phones will be useless as the battery dwindles, with no back up charging option. Your gas central heating won't work and your water supply would soon stop pumping clean water.

What is light energy? ›

Light energy is a kind of kinetic energy with the ability to make types of light visible to human eyes. Light is defined as a form of electromagnetic radiation emitted by hot objects like lasers, bulbs, and the sun. Light contains photons which are minute packets of energy.

Have not failed 10000 times I've successfully found 10000 ways that will not work? ›

In response to a question about his missteps, Edison once said, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Who is a famous failure? ›

Albert Einstein had the label "mentally slow" put on his permanent school record. Henry Ford's first two automobile companies failed. Oprah Winfrey was fired from an early job as a television news anchor. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off stage in his first stand-up comedy appearance.

Who said I didn't fail 1000 times? ›

Edison Quote: “I will not say I failed 1000 times, I will say that I discovered there are 1000 ways that can cause failure.” Thomas A. Edison Quote: “I will not say I failed 1000 times, I will say that I discovered there are 1000 ways that can cause failure.”

Who said I have not failed I've just found? ›

I just found 10,000 ways that won't work."-Thomas Edison.

Has Thomas Edison ever failed? ›

He held more than 1,000 patents, a record only broken very recently, and developed ground-breaking technologies like the electric light bulb, phonograph, batteries, and so much more. But despite his outstanding success, Edison failed frequently.

What is Thomas Edison's famous quote? ›

Anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.

Who is famous in energy? ›

Rudolf Diesel (1858 – 1913), German: invented the diesel engine in 1893. Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931), American: first power station; light bulb. Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943), Serbian-American: alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor.

Did 1910 houses have electricity? ›

During the 1910s, the number of homes wired for electricity grew steadily: 16 percent in 1912, 20 percent in 1917 and 35 percent in 1920. Most homes had only enough wiring to power their electric lights. When electricity was needed for a small appliance, there were two ways to tap into this power source.

Was electricity a thing in the 1800s? ›

In 1820, in arguably the most pivotal contribution to modern power systems, Michael Faraday and Joseph Henry invented a primitive electric motor, and in 1831, documented that an electric current can be produced in a wire moving near a magnet—demonstrating the principle of the generator.

Who invented electricity in 1879? ›

By January 1879, at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, Edison had built his first high resistance, incandescent electric light. It worked by passing electricity through a thin platinum filament in the glass vacuum bulb, which delayed the filament from melting. Still, the lamp only burned for a few short hours.

Who invented electricity in the 1800s? ›

In 1800, Alessandro Volta announced his invention of a battery similar to the one shown at right. The "voltaic pile" operated by placing pieces of cloth soaked in salt water between alternating zinc and copper discs. Contact between the two metals produced an electric current.

How did people live without electricity? ›

Living Without Electricity

In the early 1900s, before electricity, power to accomplish everyday tasks came from the labor of the entire farm family and their hired hands, plus horses and windmills. Occasionally stationary gasoline engines were used to run pumps, washing machines or other equipment.

When did they stop using gas lights in houses? ›

Gas lighting was introduced in the early 19th century and came into widespread use in homes in the 1880s. Edison perfected the lightbulb in 1879, and electric lighting became the norm throughout the U.S. in the 1930s.

How is electric power made? ›

To produce electricity, a turbine generator set converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. In the cases of natural gas, coal, nuclear fission, biomass, petroleum, geothermal and solar thermal, the heat that is produced is used to create steam, which moves the blades of the turbine.

What was used before electric? ›

Before gas or electric lighting were invented, the greatest light source indoors usually came from the fixed fire in the grate. Home activities revolved around the hearth, with candlelight or oil lamps providing dim (but mobile) light around the home.

Who built the first power plant? ›

In January 1882 the world's first public coal-fired power station, the Edison Electric Light Station, was built in London, a project of Thomas Edison organized by Edward Johnson. A Babcock & Wilcox boiler powered a 93 kW (125 horsepower) steam engine that drove a 27-tonne (27-long-ton) generator.

Who first discovered electricity 2500 years ago? ›

Triboelectricity, more commonly known as static electricity, is a phenomenon that was first recorded some 2500 years ago by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. Upon rubbing a piece of amber with fur, Thales noted that the amber was able to pick up pieces of straw and dust from a distance.

How much did a light bulb cost in 1880? ›

The electric light was expensive. In 1881 a light bulb cost a dollar — about $23 in today's money, which for some workers was a day's pay. Compared with the tungsten-filament bulb invented in 1907, Thomas Edison's carbon-filament bulb used four times more power, which also was not cheap.

Who made the first light bulb? ›

Incandescent light bulb

Who made the first battery? ›

Electric battery

Who discovered electric cell? ›

Alessandro Volta, in full Conte Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta, (born February 18, 1745, Como, Lombardy [Italy]—died March 5, 1827, Como), Italian physicist whose invention of the electric battery provided the first source of continuous current.

Who invented electricity for free? ›

Nikola Tesla

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