Without knowing it, people were able to observe a very impressive electrical phenomena even tens of thousands of years ago: Lightning during a rainstorm. During this phenomena, a very large amount of electric charge flows with a very large amount of energy from the clouds and into the ground in a fraction of a second. The effect is so strong that trees can essentially “explode”, because the energy released during the lightning strike is great enough to cause the water stored in the tree trunk to suddenly boil, and the wood to burst.
However, we have all probably had harmless experiences with electricity, such as when you comb your hair with a plastic comb and then see it “standing on end.” The hair is electrically charged due to the friction on the comb. Such effects were observed as early as 600 BC in case of friction with amber.
An early forerunner of the “battery” was produced during the last century BC: Two rods, one iron and one copper, were immersed in an electrolyte, as it is known today. At the time, grape juice was used for the electrolyte!
It has only been in the last approx. 400 years that electricity has been investigated systematically. Around the beginning of the 19th century, the interaction between flowing electric current and magnetism was discovered – the basis for later electric motors. British physicist Michael Faraday summarised the natural laws of electricity in mathematical formula. These made it possible to quantitatively calculate electrical phenomena.
Since that time, people have been gaining experience with electricity and creating new practical applications. New discoveries are moving faster and faster all the time. Think of the incandescent light bulb, the first telegraph, the first radio transmission, telephone, TV, electric trains and other vehicles, the pocket calculator – even up to telecommunications satellites, smartphones, microcontrollers and huge computing centres.