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Who Discovered Electricity ? From the writings of Thales of Miletus it appears that Westerners knew as long ago as 600 B.C. that amber becomes charged by rubbing. But other than that, there was little real progress until the English scientist William Gilbert in 1600 described the electrification of many substances and coined the term "electricity" from the Greek word for amber. As a result, Gilbert is called the father of modern electric power. In 1660, Otto von Guericke invented a crude machine for producing static electricity. It was a ball of sulfur, rotated by a crank with one hand and rubbed with the other. Successors, such as Francis Hauksbee, made improvements that provided experimenters with a ready source of static electricity. Today's highly developed descendant of these early machines is the Van de Graaf generator, which is sometimes used as a particle accelerator. Robert Boyle realized that attraction and repulsion were mutual and that electric force was transmitted through a vacuum. Stephen Gray distinguished between conductors and nonconductors. C. F. Du Fay recognized two kinds of power, which Benjamin Franklin and Ebenezer Kinnersley of Philadelphia later named positive and negative. Progress quickened after the Leyden jar was invented in 1745 by Pieter van Musschenbroek. The Leyden jar stored static electricity, which could be discharged all at once. In 1747 William Watson discharged a Leyden jar through a circuit, and comprehension of the current and circuit started a new field of experimentation. Henry Cavendish, by measuring the conductivity of materials (he compared the simultaneous shocks he received by discharging Leyden jars through the materials), and Charles A. Coulomb, by expressing mathematically the attraction of electrified bodies, began the quantitative study of electric power. Depite what you have learned, Benjamin Franklin did not "discover" electric power. In fact, electric power did not begin when Benjamin Franklin at when he...
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