06_statichistory - Lesson 6 History Theories of Static...

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Ancient Times If you ask people who discovered electricity, they’ll probably tell you names like Benjamin Franklin ( flying his kite during a lightning storm ), Thomas Edison ( invents the light bulb ), or Alessandro Volta ( makes the first batteries ). did. These are NOT the people who discovered electricity! Electricity was first mentioned in the works of a Greek scientist named Thales of Miletus in about 600BC! Thales noticed that if amber (hardened tree sap) was rubbed, it had the ability to pick up dust and leaves What he was seeing is what we now call “static electricity” Another Greek named Theophrastus noticed in 300BC that other substances had static electricity if rubbed. Unfortunately neither Thales nor Theophrastus had any scientific explanation for it… they just thought it was interesting. What they did realize was that sometimes two objects would attract each other, sometimes they would repel. This developed into the idea that there are two kinds of charge (we call them positive and negative today, which will be discussed shortly). Like charges repel Opposite charges attract. This is usually called the Law of Charges . Middle Ages In 1600AD an Englishman named William Gilbert started studying these phenomena. He wanted to come up with a good scientific explanation for these ancient discoveries. He was actually the first person to use the word “electric,” which is a variation of the Greek name for amber. Although he had only some success in describing electricity, he was able to show that there were differences between magnetism and electricity that seemed to indicate that they were completely different things. For example, an amber rod had to be rubbed to have electric effects; a magnet was always a
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This note was uploaded on 12/02/2011 for the course PHYSICS 235 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at Rutgers.

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06_statichistory - Lesson 6 History Theories of Static...

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