The History of Electricity

Electricity. It’s been around long enough to have always been part of everyday life for many of us and its discovery played a huge part in pushing forward human civilization and the industrial revolution. But who discovered it, and how? Let’s take a look into the history of electricity. You might just learn something you didn’t know.

Year by Year

1752 – Ben Franklin proved static electricity and lightning were the same by tying a key onto a kite string during a storm

1800 – Alessandro Volta, namesake of the “volt”, invented the first electric battery

1821 – Michael Faraday invented the first electric motor

1832 – Hippolyte Pixii built the first electric generator, based on Faraday’s work, capable of delivering power for industry

1844 – Samuel Morse, namesake of Morse Code, invented the electric telegraph, which made it possible to send messages long distances across wires

1879 – Arc lamps were used as the first public street lights in Cleveland, Ohio

1879 – California Electric Light Company, Inc., in San Francisco was the first electric company to sell electricity to customers

1881 – E.W. v. Siemens invented the first electric street car

1882 – Thomas Edison opened the first central electric power plant, Pearl Street Power Station in New York City, which could power 5,000 lights

1886 – Nikola Tesla invented the electric alternator

1888 – Charles Brush used the first large windmill to generate electricity

1908 – J. Spangler invented the first electric vacuum cleaner and A. Fisher introduced the first electric washing machine

1911 – Electric air conditioning is introduced by W. Carrier

1913 – T. Murray brought us the first air pollution control device, called the “Cinder Catcher” and A. Goss invented the first electric refrigerator

1920 – The Federal Power Commission (FPC) is born

1933 – Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is established

1935 – Public Utility Holding Act, Federal Power Act, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Bonneville Power Administration were all established, and the first night baseball game was played in Ohio (Reds vs Phillies) on May 24th

1947 – Bell Telephone Laboratories invented the transistor

1953 – S1W reactor was the first prototype nuclear reactor used by the U.S. Navy to prove the technology could be used for electricity generation and propulsion of submarines

1954 — The Atomic Energy Act is enacted to allow private ownership of nuclear reactors

1957 – Pennsylvania’s Shippingport Reactor was the first to provide electricity from nuclear power to U.S. customers

1977 – The U.S. established the Department of Energy for regulation purposes

1990’s – Deregulation shifted the sale of electricity in many states to a market-based approach which has proven beneficial in reducing the cost and improving the quality of customer service

On the Horizon

The engineering marvel that is today’s electricity grid was built in the 1890’s. It is essentially a complex system of over 9,200 electric generating units, greater than 300,000 miles of transmission lines, substations and transformers, delivering more than 1,000,000 megawatts of electricity from power plants to homes and businesses.

The current grid, though improved upon as technology allows, is being stretched to capacity. The smart grid of the future is being built from digital technology and as today’s grid continues to be upgraded, the evolution of the smart grid is happening one piece at a time. The controls, computers, power lines, new technologies and equipment will take some time to come together and will most likely take the next decade or so to complete. Once it has had the opportunity to mature, the impact the smart grid will have on our lives and the way we work, play, and learn, is expected to be much like the introduction of the internet. The possibilities are endless. And we at AEP Energy look forward to powering a brighter future together with you.


AEP Energy does not guarantee the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, freedom from error, or value of any information herein. The information presented is provided “as is”, “as available”, and for informational purposes only, speaks only to events or circumstances on or before the date it is presented, and should not be construed as advice, a recommendation, or a guarantee of future results. AEP Energy disclaims any and all liabilities and warranties related hereto, including any obligation to update or correct the information herein. Summaries and website links included herein (collectively, “Links”) are not under AEP Energy’s control and are provided for reference only and not for commercial purposes. AEP Energy does not endorse or approve of the Links or related information and does not provide any warranty of any kind or nature related thereto.

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