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A. Wilke. Die Elektrizität, ihre Erzeugung und ihre Anwendung in Industrie und Gewerbe, 1906

It runs our home appliances, it sustains our infrastructure, and it even keeps our brains functioning properly. Without electricity, modern society simply would not be modern.

Ancient civilizations could see that there was a mysterious force at work. There had been run-ins with electric fish, for example, and the ancient Greeks recognized that a piece of amber rubbed with fur would attract very light objects.

Still, it wasn’t until 1600 that any progress was made on understanding this phenomenon. In his De Magnete, William Gilbert applied the word electricus – a Latinization of the Greek word for amber – to these attractive properties. He posited that magnetism and electricity were separate forces. He laid the foundation upon which later scientists would build their ideas.

Read more:

Science as Spectacle
The Body Electric
The Leyden Jar
The Voltaic Pile
The Friction Machine
Atmospheric Electricity and Lightning Rods