Atomic Power and Electricity
Page last modified 4/1/2021
Real-time data on UK national grid here, http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/
Scientific laws and principles
The atom and atomic power – see Appendix 1 below
Electricity – see Appendix 3 below
Electric Light – See Appendic 3.5 below
Appendix 1 – The atom and atomic power
2014, Particles called B mesons were observed to decay to leptons in ways that appeared to contradict the Standard Model, possibly suggesting that leptons may consist of yet smaller particles.
4/7/2012, The Higgs Boson was discovered at CERN. Its existence was first theorised by British physicist Peter Higgs (born 1929) in 1964.
17/11/2010, Scientists at the CERN Large Hadron Collider announced they had trapped anti-matter for the first time in
9/9/2003. Edward Teller, the scientist known as the father of the H-bomb, died aged 95. Teller was born in Hungary and fled Hitler’s rule to work on the Manhattan Project in the USA to develop atomic weapons. He produced the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought about Japan’s surrender and the end of World War Two. However Teller had argued for exploding this atomic bomb high in the skies above Tokyo, where it would do no damage but ‘shock and awe’ the population into surrender. Robert Oppenhiemer, the scientist in charge of building the Japanese A-bombs, disagreed with Teller. Later, Teller persuaded President Harry Truman of the need to develop a more powerful H-bomb. This was tested at 7am on 31/10/1952. The fireball was larger than expected, frightening observers; the entire island of Elugelab, a mile across, vanished. The blast was 500 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast of 1945. Two years later an even bigger bomb was exploded at Bikini Atoll, making it as sparse as the garment it gave its name to. Soon, however, the Russians had their own H-bomb. Oppenheimer, having seen the damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, disagreed with building the H-bomb, saying the A-bomb was powerful enough for America’s purposes. This led the USA to suspect Oppenheimer of disloyalty and Communist sympathies at the time of the McCarthy witch hunts. Oppenheimer died in 1967, aged 62. Teller was admired by President Ronald Reagan, whose election Teller described as ‘a miracle for Western civilisation’. The ‘Star Wars’ defensive shield for the USA was Teller’s idea, enthusiastically adopted by Reagan. This was a set-back to the USSR, already suffering financially from its efforts to keep up militarily with the USA, and Star Wars may have even hastened the break-up of the Soviet Union. Teller saw his native Hungary suffer first Fascist, then Communist, tyranny; he saw the USA as a bastion of freedom, and the H-bomb as its ‘trusty sword’. At the time of his death, Teller, father of two, was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, USA. Although Mr Teller lived modestly, liking playing the piano and tennis, he persuaded the USA to spend billions on nuclear weapons, on Star wars, and on nuclear shelters in case of nuclear war. Most of this is now scrap, but the dividend for the USA was the collapse of Soviet Communism.
1995, Sizewell B nuclear power station opened, see 1966.
5/6/1995, Bose-Einstein condensate was created.
23/2/1989, Stanley Pins and Martin Flieschmann announced Cold Fusion at the University of Utah.
1/9/1988, Luis Walter Alvarez, researcher into subatomic particles, born 13/6/1911 in San Francisco, California, died in Berkeley, California.
30/4/1986, After unusually high radiation levels were detected in Scandinavia, the USSR acknowledged that an accident had taken place at Chernobyl.
26/4/1986. The nuclear power station at Chernobyl, near Kiev, suffered a major fire, explosion, and radiation leak. 31 were killed directly, but many thousands more were exposed to radiation. Unseasonably warm weather on 25/4/1986 led to number 4 reactor being shut down; with coolant systems down, an engineer ordered more power to test a turbine; this caused the no.4 reactor to explode.
11/1985, In the UK, the Nuclear Industry Radio-Radio-Active Waste Executive (NIREX) was established.
8/4/1984, Pyotr Kapitza, Soviet low-temperature physicist, died aged 89.
9/8/1981, In the USA, President Reagan announced the decision to proceed with the neutron bomb.
23/3/1980. In a referendum, Sweden approved the use of nuclear power.
9/4/1979, Officials declared Three Mile Island nuclear power station to be safe, see 29/3/1979.
29/3/1979, Valves in the cooling system at Three Mile Island nuclear reactor malfunctioned, and due to staff error part of the reactor was left without coolant and melted. Radioactive steam escaped outside. A meltdown was averted. This pushed public opinion in the USA and Europe strongly against nuclear power. See 9/4/1979.
1974, A team led by Martin Lewis Perl discovered an even heavier version of the electron, called the tau. This had a mass 3,400 times the electron,
1974, The Dounreay nuclear reactor, Scotland, began operations.
24/7/1974, Sir James Chadwick, physicist and discoverer of the neutron, Nobel Prize winner, died aged 82.
18/5/1974. India exploded its first nuclear bomb. Pakistan, which lost its third war with India in 1970, was nervous.
21/7/1973, France resumed nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll, despite protests from Australia and New Zealand.
24/8/1970. Radioactive leak at Windscale, Cumbria.
19/1/1970. India’s first nuclear power station opened.
1968, Protons were found to contain smaller particles, known as quarks.
25/8/1968, The French exploded their first Hydrogen Bomb.
1966, The first nuclear power station at Sizewell, Suffolk, England , opened, see 1995.
18/9/1967, Sir John Cockroft, British scientist who along with Ernest Walton split the atom, died.
1964, China exploded its first nuclear bomb, near Lop Nor, Sinkiang.
5/4/1963, Bradwell nuclear power station opened in the UK.
5/12/1962, Britain exploded a thermonuclear device underground in Nevada.
15/6/1962, Berkeley nuclear power station in Gloucestershire began operating.
21/1/1962 . It was announced that, 20 years after the birth of the atomic Age, the world now possessed 280 atomic bombs, 40 of them in Britain
10/1961, The USSR set off the most powerful anuclear explosion ever. The ‘Tsar Bomba’ (King Bomb) was detomated in the Arctic island of Novaya Zemlya. It yielded the equivalent of 59 million tonnes of TNT, some 3,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. There was nothing to be gained from more powerful nuclear bombs as they would simply punch up through the Earth’s atmosphere and most pf the yield would be lost to space.
1960, Radiocarbon dating was discovered by Willard Libby.
13/2/1960. France exploded its first atom bomb, in the Sahara.
15/11/1959, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson, Scottish physicist who invented the cloud chamber for detecting the tracks of subatomic particles, died in Carlops, Peebleshire.
14/11/1959, The Dounreay fast breeder reactor in Scotland began operating.
2/5/1959, The first nuclear power station in Scotland, at Chapelcross, began operations.
8/12/1958, The last of the four nuclear reactors at Calder Hall began operating.
28/8/1958, Ernest O Lawrence, US nuclear scientist, died aged 57.
17/8/1958, Britain announced plans to resume Atom Bomb testing on Christmas Island.
8/4/1958, President Eisenhower of the USA proposed mutual inspections as a means of enforcing the mutual Test Ban.
17/10/1957. A fire at Windscale (now Sellafield) nuclear plant shut down one of the piles producing Plutonium and released radioactivity into the air. Thousands of gallons of milk from some Cumbrian cows had to be dumped, due to radio-iodine contamination, despite government assurances that the radiation had been carried out to sea.
10/10/1957. A major radiation leak was detected at Windscale after an accident three days earlier.
29/7/1957. International Atomic Energy Agency established.
23/4/1957, Albert Schweitzer write to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, urging mobilisation of world opinion against nuclear tests.
15/5/1957. Britain’s first H – Bomb was exploded on Christmas Island in the southern Pacific Ocean.
10/5/1957, The USSR appealed to the US and Britain to cease nuclear tests.
15/1/1957, Columbia University physics department announced that parity is not conserved for weak interactions.
1956, Individual atoms were see for the first time, in an ion microscope.
1956, The neutrino was first detected at Los Alamos laboratory, USA. The anti-neutrino was detected at California University, USA. The existence of the neutrino had been theorised since the 1930s, by Wolgang Pauli when studying radioactive dccay. The decay products of radioactive atoms needed a further as yet unknown particle to satisfy the law of conservation of momentum. The neutrino has a tiny mass, about one millionth of that of the elctron.
17/10/1956. Calder Hall, Britain’s first nuclear power station, in Cumbria, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Generation of power had begun on 20/8/1956.
22/9/1956, Frederick Soddy, English radiochemist, died aged 79.
20/8/1956. Calder Hall, the world’s first large-scale nuclear power station, began operating.
17/3/1956, The daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie died of leukaemia, possibly brought on by working with radioactive materials.
8/8/1955, The International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Power opened in Geneva.
17/7/1955. The first atomic powered electric power station in the USA began operations, in Arco, Idaho. For two hours between 8pm and 10pm the town was disconnected from the national power grid and plugged in to the new power source. The experiment was a success.
15/6/1955, The USA and Britain signed an atomic energy agreement, providing for the exchange of information between them.
18/4/1955. Albert Einstein, born 14/3/1879, died in Princeton, New Jersey, of a stroke. He became an American citizen in 1940 after having signed a famous letter to President F D Roosevelt warning that Germany might try and build an atomic bomb.
17/2/1955, The UK Government announced it would proceed with the manufacture of H-Bombs.
15/2/1955, The UK Government announced it would build 12 nuclear power stations in the next 10 years. Nuclear power was expected to be much cheaper than that from coal fired power stations; the costs of safety and the disposal of nuclear waste had been overlooked.
28/11/1954, Enrico Fermi, atomic physicist, died in Chicago, USA.
29/9/1954, CERN, the Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire, was founded.
1/8/1954, The UK Atomic Energy Authority was founded.
27/6/1954. The first Soviet nuclear power station was opened, at Obninsk, 55 miles from Moscow.
1/3/1954, (1) The UK Parliament approved of establishing an Atomic Energy Authority.
(2) A US test of a 12 megaton hydrogen bomb exposed 23 Japanese fishermen, 70 to 90 miles away, to such severe radiation that one subsequently died. The bomb, weighing ten tons, named Bravo, was expected to deliver just 5 megatons and so the 10,000 observers were relatively near and the Marshall Islands, 100 miles away, were not evacuated. Some Marshall islanders also suffered radiation sickness. In the event the bomb delivered 15 megatons, the fireball was 4 miles across, and the heat could easily be felt 30 miles away. America now realised that just one Hydrogen Bomb could obliterate a major city such as New York.
21/1/1954. The world’s first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, was launched from Groton in Connecticut.
1953, CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, was set up near Geneva.
19/12/1953, R A Millikan, US subatomic physicist, died aged 85.
8/12/1953, President Eisenhower made his ‘Atoms for Power’ speech, proposing to the United Nations General Assembly the establishment of an International Atomic Energy Authority to monitor the spread of atmic technology for peaceful purposes.
12/8/1953. The USSR tested its first hydrogen bomb, in the Pacific. Moscow announced the test explosion on 20/8/1953. Both superpowers now had them.
22/7/1953, Construction of Calder Hall nuclear power station began.
1952, The Bubble Chamber was invented by Donald Glaser. It utilises the tracks made by subatomic particles in a pressurised liquid medium to study fission products.
3/10/1952. The first British Atomic Bomb exploded, aboard a ship in the Monte Bello Islands, in the Pacific off north west Australia. The ship was almost totally vaporised, apart from a few hot fragments which fell on neighbouring islands, starting fires. Watching news reporters felt the blast 4 minutes 15 seconds after the flash, from a distance of 65 miles.
14/6/1952, Construction began on the world’s first nuclear submarine.
26/2/1952, Winston Churchill announced that Britain had produced its own atom bomb.
25/2/1952, The Plutonium plant at Windscale began operations.
19/11/1951, The world’s first atomic central heating plant began operating, in Harwell.
1949, The USSR conducted its first atom bomb test.
1/12/1949, US Physicist Willard Libby invented carbon dating.
15/12/1948. France’s first nuclear reactor began operating.
1947, The pion (pi-meson) was discovered in cosmic rays. Its existence had been predicted by Japanese physicist Hideki Yukawa in 1935. It explains the transmission of nuclear force.
15/8/1947. The UK’s first atomic reactor, at Harwell, began operating.
1946, The isotope Carbon-13 was discovered. Bloch and Purcell discovered the phenomenon of magnetic resonance.
1/7/1946. The first US atom bomb test at Eniwetok atoll. A second test with an underwater bomb was on 25/7/1946.
1945, The first atom bomb explosion was achieved, at Alamogordo, USA.
6/11/1945. The USSR said it would build its own atom bomb.
29/10/1945. The Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment was set up.
20/12/1942. The US began to produce electricity from nuclear fission.
2/12/1942. Controlled release of energy by nuclear fission was first achieved. The first atomic pile began operating in Chicago. It was at Stagg Field, University of Chicago, under physicists Enrico Fermi and Arthur Compton.
1941, US chemist Glenn Seaborg isolated Plutonium, a key element in a nuclear bomb.
1940, The critical mass of Uranium-235 was forst calculated. The possibility of a ‘superbomb’ (atom bomb) was now a reality.
30/8/1940, Sir Joseph John Thomson, British scientist who discovered the electron in 1897, died in Cambridge. He was buried near Isaac Newton in the nave of Westminster Abbey.
18/12/1938, Nuclear fission first achieved. German chemist Otto Hahn succeeded in splitting the uranium atom, releasing energy.
1936, Carl Anderson and Seth Neddermeyer discovered, in cosmic rays, a negatively-charged particle that was bent less by an electric field than an electron was, suggesting it was heavier. This particle was the muon. It had a mass 207 times the electron.
27/1/1936, Samuel Chao Chung Ting was born in Arbor, Michigan. In 1974 he discovered a new subatomic particle, the J/psi particle.
4/7/1934. French physicist, Marie Curie, died of leukaemia. She contracted the disease from the radiation she was exposed to, before its dangers were properly understood.. She was born in Poland in 1867 (nee Sklodowska) married to Pierre Curie in 1895, and pioneered the medical uses of radioactivity.
1933, US scientists C D Anderson and Robert Millikin, whilst analysing cosmic rays, discovered positrons (positively-charged electrons).
3/9/1933, Jeffry Goldstone, subatomic particle researcher, was born in Manchester, England.
1932, English physicist Sir James Chadwick (1891-1974) discovered the neutron.
1932, US physicist Carl Anderson (1905-1991) discovered the positron, an electron with a positive charge. The existence of the positron, found in cosmic rays, had been predicted by Paul Dirac in 1928.
14/4/1932, Sir James Cockcroft and Ernest Walton split a lithium nucleus into two alpha particles, producing excess energy, using a particle accelerator.
5/12/1932, Sheldon Glashow was born in New York City, USA. In 1964 he introduced the concept of ‘charm’ in quark theory.
15/9/1929, Murray Gell-Mann, US physicist who researched sub-atomic particles, was born.
1928, The Gieger-Muller Counter was invented by H Geiger and W Muller. It was the first practical version of the Geiger Counter, first developed by Hans Geiger (1882-1945) in 1908. The counter contains a gas, e.g. argon, that is ionised by an incoming radioactive particle. The gas container has two wires connected to a loudspeaker and amplifier. When the gas is ionised a current flows between the wires and an electric pulse produces a click.
1/9/1927, German physicist Werner Karl Heisenberg formulated his famous Uncertainty Principle – the more one knows about the position of a subatomic particle, the less one knows about its motion, and vice versa.
1923, The existence of the photon was proved by US physicist AH Compton. It transmits the electromagnetic force.
3/1/1919, Rutherford split the atom. He bombarded nitrogen nuclei with alpha particles, obtaining oxygen and hydrogen. From this he deduced that all atoms must be composed of hydrogen nuclei, a particle which was termed the proton in 1920. He also theorised that atomic nuclei must contain a second neutral particle or neutron.
10/12/1918, Max Planck won the Physics Nobel prize for his work on quantum mechanics.
11/5/1918, US quantum physicist Richard Feynman was born (died 1988).
5/2/1915, Robert Hofstadter was born in New York City, USA. In 1961 he determined the internal structure of the proton and neutron.
12/9/1917, Leo James Rainwater was born in Council, Idaho. In 1949 he worked on the odea that the atomic nucleus was not spherical.
1913, Danish scientist Neils Bohr (1881-1962) described the structure of the atom. British scientis Peter Soddy coined the term ‘isotope’.
7/3/1911, New Zealand physicist Ernest Lord Rutherford (1871-1937) discovered the atomic nucleus. He conducted an experiment in which he fired alpha particles (helium nuclei) at a sheet of gold foil just 0.0004 mm thick, with detectors placed around the sheet, Some particles passed through but some were deflected or even bounced back.Tnis suggested that atoms had a small region of strong central resistance in a much less dense area occupied by the electrons.
16/2/1910. Madame Curie succeeded in isolating one tenth of a milligram of Polonium, which was more radioactive than Radium. She named the element after her native Poland.
25/2/1909, Lev Andreevich Artsimovich, Soviet physicist, was born in Moscow. He developed the Tokamak fusion design.
1908, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden found that positive atomic particles could pass through gold foil, suggesting that atoms were mostly empty space with a small nucleus.
17/12/1908, Birth of US chemist Willard Frank Libby, who developed radio-carbon dating.
10/12/1908. Ernest Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on radioactivity and the atom.
25/8/1908, Henri Becquerel, French scientist who studied radioactivity, died (born 1852).
15/1/1908, Edward Teller, who invented the Hydrogen Bomb, was born in Budapest.
4/3/1907, Soviet physicist Vladimir Iosifovich was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine. In 1945 he designed an improved particle accelerator.
19/4/1906, Pierre Curie, French scientist who discovered Radium, was run over and killed in Paris.
28/9/1905, Albert Einstein published what is now known as his Special Theory of Relativity. This argued that light travelled at a constant speed for all observers regardless of position or motion, that e = mc2, and that time slowed down as one approached lightspeed.
3/9/1905, Physicist Carl David Anderson was born in New York City, USA. In 1932 he discovered the positron, a positively-charged antimatter version of the electron. This proved correct the 1928 prediction of Paul Dirac (1902-1984), that negative-energy particles corresponding to our positive energy ones should exist.
15/1/1905, Edward Teller, who developed the Hydrogen Bomb in 1952, was born to Jewish parents in Budapest.
22/11/1904, Hannes Alfven of Sweden was born. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for work in plasma physics.
1/10/1904, Austrian-British physicist Otto Robert Frisch was born in Vienna. He developed the fission theory, in 1939, for the bombardment of uranium by neutrons.
10/12/1903. Marie Curie, aged 33, won the Nobel Prize jointly with her husband for the discovery of radioactivity.
12/1/1903, Igor Vasilevich Kurchatov was born in Sim, Russia. In 1946 he became director of the first Soviet nuclear reactor.
11/7/1902, Samuel Goudsmit, physicist, was born in The Hague, Netherlands. In 1925, along with George Uhlenbeck (born Batavia, Indonesia, 6/12/1900), he formulated the hypothesis of the electron spin.
29/9/1901, Enrico Fermi, atomic physicist, was born in Rome, Italy.
27/6/1901, Atomic physicist Merle Tuve was born in the USA.
12/5/1901, Christopher Hinton was born in Tisbury, England. In 1956 he opened Calder Hall reactor in England, the first large-scale nuclear plant designed for peaceful purposes.
1900, The gamma ray (high energy photon) was discovered.
1900, In Britain, William Crookes separated the isotopes of uranium.
14/12/1900, German physicist Max Planck proposed a quantum theory of energy. This solved the problem with radiation from Black Bodies, which without quantum theory would be theoretically infinite in amount, His theory led Einstein to propose that light also came in discrete packets he called photons. From here De Broglie proposed a theory of particles as waves, this being developed into a theory of particle behaviour based on wave dynamics by Erwin Schrodinger in the 1920s. Meanwhile German physicist Werner Heisenberg created a mathematical equivalent to Schrodinger’s theory, but with only linear algebra, not wave theory. US physicist Richard Feynman then created the modern theory of quantum mechanics known as Quantum Electrodynamics, explaining how charged subatomic particles interact within electric and magnetic fields.
1899, The alpha particle was discovered.
26/12/1898, Radium was discovered and isolated by Pierre and Marie Curie and G Bemont.
1897, British physicist Sir Joseph Thomson (1856-1940) discovered the electron.
1897, CTR Wilson invented the Cloud Chamber, for the study of radioactive decay.
27/5/1897, John Cockroft, nuclear physicist, was born in Yorkshire.
11/2/1897, Hungarian-US physicist Leo Szilard was born in Budapest. In 1939 he researched self-sustaining nuclear reactions.
1896, French physicist Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity.
29/4/1893, Physicist Harold Clayton Urey was born in Walkerton, Indiana. In 1932 he discovered deuterium or heavy hydrogen.
20/10/1891, Sir James Chadwick, who discovered the neutron in 1932, was born in Manchester.
7/10/1885, Niels Henrik Bohr was born in Copenhagen. In 1911 he first attempted to link Planck’s constant to atomic structure.
8/3/1879, Birth of Otto Hahn, discoverer of nuclear fission, who received the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1944.
18/12/1856, Sir Joseph John Thomson, discoverer of the electron, was born in Cheetham Hill near Manchester. He was the son of a bookseller.
Appendix 3 – Electricity See also lighting.
15/10/1985, Sir Clive Sinclair, maker of the C5 electric tricycle, called in the receivers.
10/1/1985, Clive Sinclair launched the C5, a battery-powered tricycle. Priced at Ł399, the C5 could be driven by 14 year olds without a licence, insurance or helmet, and was not subject to road tax. A factory that could produce 200,000 C5s a year was to open at Merthyr Tydfil in June 1985.
14/3/1982, Nikolay Petrovich, Soviet electrical engineer, died.
27/12/1968, ECStoner, 69, English theoretical physicist known for his discoveries in ferromagnetism, died aged 69.
26/11/1966. Charles De Gaulle in Brittany opened the world’s first tidal power station. It was in the Rance Estuary, in the Golfe de St Malo. The station, first planned in 1955, cost French Francs 420 million (UKŁ 42 million) to build.
7/9/1996, Noel Walton Bott, pioneer of wave energy for electrical power, died (born 9/12/1907)
15/12/1963, In the UK, the CEGB's 400 kV Supergrid was first tested when High Marnham Power Station was connected to Monk Fryston substation, near Selby.
1956, The Tesla was declared to be the official unit of strength of a magnetic field.
1954, The Bell Telephone Company in the USA announced the development of a solar battery capable of converting sunlight into electricity.
1950, Over 75% of US farms were electrified, up from 33% in 1940.
15/7/1950, Lord Citrine opened the British Electricity Laboratories (now the Central Electricity Research Laboratories) at Leatherhead.
1949, 86% of UK homes had electricity. 79% of UK homes had gas, and 68% had both utilities.
13/8/1947, In Britain the Electricity Bill received Royal Assent. This provided for the nationalisation of the electricity supply industry.
12/1946, The first village in northern Scotland, Finstown in Orkney, received an electricity supply, under the North of Scotland Highland Electricity Board scheme for Remote Villages.
7/1/1943. Nikola Tesla, the Croatian-American scientist who developed alternating current, died.
18/6/1939, Arthur Edwin Kennelly, British-US electrical engineer, died in Boston, Massachusetts.
1938, The UK now had 8,920,000 electricity consumers, up from 2,844,900 in 1929 and 730,000 in 1920.
29/10/1937, The first truly national electricity grid was created in Britain. Before 1926 private generating companies supplied power, all at different standards and voltages. A standard national system would have been better, but the Conservative Government pf the time was against ‘socialist’ nationalisation, so a compromise was reached. A ‘National Gridiron’ of power lines was to be created, connecting up the most reliable power companies; in fact several regional ‘grids’ were established, with emergency connections if needed. This ‘gridiron’ was set up under the Electricity Supply Act of 1926, and the regional Grids were completed by September 1933. On this day in October 1937 electricity engineers, without authorisation, connected up all the Grids to make one national grid. Everything worked fine, and the Grid has remained National ever since.
18/10/1931. The prolific inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, died in the USA, aged 84. He was most famous for inventing the light bulb, but he also invented the phonograph, the ticker tape machine, much of the technology of moving pictures, and some 1,300 other items. Born in 1847 in Ohio, Edison was bottom of the class in school and left to be a newsboy at 12. He moved to Boston in 1866 and became very interested in electricity. He set up a laboratory in New Jersey and worked on improving telegraphy. In 1878 he worked on electric light and produced a commercially viable bulb in 1879. By 1900 he was also researching in chemistry.
1929, In Britain, around 4% of rural households were connected to the electricity supply.
3/2/1925, Oliver Heaviside, English physicist and electrical engineer, died in Paignton, Devon.
1911, Dutch scientist Heike Kamerlinghe Onnes discovered superconductivity. He liquefied helium at 4.2 Kelvin; at this temperature electrons associate in pairs and move through the metal without resistance.
8/11/1908, William Edward Ayrton, English electrical physicist, (born 14/9/1847 in London) died in London.
1907, The Hurley Machine Co of Chicago began selling the first electric washing machine, the Thor, in the US.
9/12/1907, Noel Walton Bott, pioneer of wave energy for electrical power, was born. (died 7/6/1996)
21/1/1901, Elisha Gray, US electrical inventor, died (born 2/8/1835).
20/12/1901, Robert Van de Graaff, inventor of the Van de Graaff generator, was born.
1900, Magnetic tape was invented.
22/1/1900, David Hughes, electrical scientist, died (born 16/5/1831)
30/10/1898, Josiah Clark, British electrical engineer, died (born 10/3/1822).
1/8/1896, Sir William Grove, electrical innovator, died (born 11/7/1811).
10/3/1894, Paul Jablochkov, Russian electrical engineer, died (born 14/9/1847).
1889, The first dam built to serve a hydroelectric plant was built at Oregon City, Oregon, USA, on the Williamette River.
1888, Electric sockets incorporating an on/off switch were patented by the English inventor David Salomons.
1887, Electric power first appeared in Japan.
12/6/1885, Henry Jenkin, British electrical engineer, died (25/3/1833).
1884, The ammeter came into use in electrical engineering.
1882, The world’s first hydroelectric plant began operations, in Appleton, USA.
1882, Nikola Tesla discovered that atoms have a magnetic field.
30/9/1882, Water power was used to produce electricity for the first time, at a plant on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin, USA.
6/7/1882, The first electric iron was patented, by Henry Seeley of New York.
1/10/1881. The world’s first electric power station was built at Godalming, Surrey, and began operating this day. It supplied Godalming town council and a leather mill on the River Wey. However the system lacked economies of scale and without the prospects of enlarging the customer base to the everal hundred needed for breaking even, the enterporise shut down on 1/5/1884 and gas lighting was introduced. Electricity did not return to Godalming until 1901. Similarly in Chesterfield, pioneer electric lighting was installed in 1881, as public street lighting, following a dispute over terms between the town and the gas company. However the street lighting did not pay, and as with Godalming the town reverted to gas lighting on 1/4/1884, with electricity not returning to Chesterfield until 1901.
1880, Thomas Alva Edison’s first electric generator, desighed mainly for electric lighting, began operations in London.
1879, The first fatality by electric shock, when a person in France made contact with a 250 V AC circuit.
1879, In the UK, the Liverpool Corporation Electric Lighting Act authorised the corporation to provide electric lighting tp the city; the first such Act passed.
1879, Thomas Edison invented the circuit-breaker, because surges of power due to short circuits could damage electrical equipment. However most circuits were then designed with fuses, to burn out if there was s surge, instead.
13/5/1878, Joseph Henry, electrical scientist, died (born 17/12/1797).
1873, James Clerk-Maxwell published his book, Electricity and Magnetism, explaining the transmission theough space of electrical forces and radiation.
1873, The principle of photo-electric cells was discovered by Mr May who noticed that the resistance of selenium varied according to the illumination it was under. In 1888 Mr W Hallwachs found that zinc lost its charge when under ultra-voilet illumination.
1869, The Belgian-French inventor Zenobe Theophile build the first commercially viable generator for direct current.
25/8/1867. Michael Faraday, scientist and inventor, pioneer in electromagnetism, died at Hampton Court.
22/1/1867, Sir William Harris, electrical scientist, died (born 1/4/1791).
2/7/1862, William Henry Bragg was born in Cumberland, England. In 1910 he discovered that X rays and gamma rays cause a gas to conduct electricity by knocking electrons from the gas molecules.
1859, Gaston Plante, French physicist, invented the first rechargeable battery (see 1800). His lead-acid battery could be recharged by reversing the flow of electricity through it; it was the precursor of modern 12-volt car batteries.
21/2/1858. The first electric burglar alarm was installed by Edwin T Holmes of Boston Massachusetts.
12/6/1854, Charles Algernon Parsons was born in London. In 1884 he designed and installed the first steam turbine generator for electric power.
7/7/1854, George Ohm, German scientist who pioneered work on electricity, died in Munich.
29/3/1853, Elihu Thomson, English inventor who co-founded the General Electric Company with Thomas Edison, was born.
11/10/1851, Paul Erman, electrical scientist, died (born 29/2/1764).
4/12/1850, William Sturgeon, who devised the first electro-magnet, died at Prestwich, near Manchester.
11/2/1847. Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor, was born.
1841, Physicist James Prescott Joule discovered thatvwhen a current passes through a homogenous conductor, the conductor heasts up. This effect is used to produce incandescent light in light bulbs, also in toasters and elkectric heaters.
25/2/1837. The first practical electric motor was patented, by Thomas Davenport of Rutland, Vermont. However in 1850 it was pointed out that power from these motors was about 25 times more expensive than steam power.
10/6/1836, Andre Ampere, French scientist noted for his work on electro-magnetics, died.
1833, In correspondence, Michael Faraday and William Whewell introduced the terms electrode, anode, ion, cathode, anion, cation, electrolyte and electrolysis.
2/8/1835, Elisha Gray, US electrical inventor, was born (died 21/1/1901).
25/3/1833, Henry Jenkin, British electrical engineer, was born (died 12/6/1885).
27/10/1831, Physicist and chemist Michael Faraday, 40, invented a device to convert mechanical energy into electrical current, by spinning a copper disc between the poles of a magnet. This was the origin of the dynamo.
17/10/1831, Physicist Michael Faraday proved that a magnet inserted into a coil of wire and moved would cause a current to flow in the wire. This showed that mechanical work, or motion, could create a current; the dynamo principle by which much power is generated today.
29/8/1831, Michael Faraday demonstrated the first electrical transformer.
1827, Ohm announced the Law of Electrical Resistance.
5/3/1827. Death of Count Alessandro Volta, aged 82, at Como, Italy. He was born on 18/2/1745. An Italian, he made the first battery, and gave his name (Volt) to the unit of electrical power.
12/3/1824, Gustav Robert Kirchhoff was born in Konigsberg, Kaliningrad. He discovered in 1857 that static electric forces and magnetic forces were related by a constant that was discovered to be the speed of light in a vacuum; the first clue that electromagnetism and light were linked.
1823, German physicist Thomas Johann Seebeck (1770-1831) discovered that if heat was applied to the junction of two different metals in a closed circuit, a compass needle could be made to deviate,indicating an electric current was flowing. The Seebeck Effect was utilised in the 20th century in the use of semiconductors.
10/3/1822, Josiah Clark, British electrical engineer, was born (died 30/10/1898).
4/1820, Hans Christian Oersted, Danish scientist, discovered that if an electric current was applied to a wire near a compass needle, the needle could be made to move.
11/7/1811, Sir William Grove, electrical innovator, was born (died 1/8/1896).
21/12/1809, Tiberius Cavallo, electrical scientist, died (born 30/3/1749).
23/8/1806, Charles Coulomb, electrical scientist, died (born 14/6/1736).
8/11/1800, Alessandro Volta invented the first battery, and demonstrated it this day to the Institut Francais. Made of layers of zinc, cardboard soaked in salt water, and silver, it generated electricity when a wire was joined to each end, but it was not rechargeable. See 1859.
17/12/1797, Joseph Henry, electrical scientist, was born (died 13/5/1878).
22/9/1791, The chemist and physicist Michael Faraday was born at Newington Butts, London. He was the son of a blacksmith.
1/4/1791, Sir William Harris, electrical scientist, born (died 22/1/1867).
1789, Luigi Galvani discovered galvanic current.
16/3/1789, German physicist Georg Simon Ohm was born in Erlangen. In 1827 he formulated what became known as Ohm’s Law – that the current is proportional to the ratio of the voltage and the resistance, or I = V/R.
1784, The Inverse Square Law of Magnetism was announced by Coulomb.
22/5/1783, William Sturgeon, English scientist who made the first practical electromagnet, was born in Whittington, Lancashire.
27/5/1781, Giovanni Beccaria, Italian electrical physicist, died in Turin (born in Mondovi 3/10/1716).
22/1/1775, Andre Ampere French mathematician and scientist, and founder of the science of electromagnetics, was born in Lyons, son of a wealthy merchant.
22/3/1772, John Canton, English scientist died (born 31/7/1718).
29/2/1764, Paul Erman, electrical scientist, was born (died 11/10/1851).
15/6/1752, Benjamin Franklin demonstrated electricity, by flying a kite in a thunderstorm.
30/3/1749, Tiberius Cavallo, electrical scientist, was born (died 21/12/1809).
1747, Abbe Jean Antoine Nollet, born in Pimprez, France, 19/11/1700, invented the first electrometer.It comprised a suspended pith ball.
18/2/1745, Alessandro Volta, Italian scientist, was born in Como.
1742, Musschenbroek discovered the Leyden Jar.
14/6/1736, Charles Coulomb, electrical scientist, was born (died 23/8/1806).
31/7/1718, John Canton, English scientist (died 22/3/1772) was born. He developed a method of manufacturing artificial magnets.
3/10/1716, Giovanni Beccaria, Italian electrical physicist, was born in Mondovi (died in Turin 27/5/1781).
1600, The term ‘electricity’ was used for the first time, by Gilbert, who also discovered that the Earth has a magnetic field. He named the phenomenon after the Greek word for amber, elektron.
600 BC, The Greek writer Thales of Miletus noted that amber from the shores of the Baltic (which the Greeks called elektron) when rubbed could attract small objects.
Appendix 3.5 – Electric Light
9/5/1932. Piccadilly Circus first lit by electricity.
7/3/1910, Neon lighting was patented by Georges Claude. Neon was only discovered in 1898.Other gases can be added tio give different colours; a trace of argon makes blue light, and adding helium makes white or yellow light.
22/12/1882, The first string of Christmas lights was made by Edward H Johnson, a colleague of Thomas Edison.
4/9/1882, The Edison Electric Illuminating Company began producing electricity at Pearl Street, New York, USA. It had a total of 85 customers.
12/1/1882. The Edison Electric Light Company at 57 Holborn Viaduct established London’s first electric power station. It supplied the area between Holborn Circus and the Old Bailey with street lighting from 12/1 and with domestic current from 12/4/1882. In New York, USA, electric power was switched on from 4/9/1882. However the UK Parliament then passed the Electric Light Act; this discouraged private building of power stations because it empowered local authorities to take them over after 21 years. This made it impossible for private investors to recoup their money, in such a short time span, The Act was amended in 1888 to make the period of private operation 42 years. However even as late as 1890, major UK cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and Edinburgh had no electric power.
20/1/1882, A drapers shop in Newcastle on Tyne, England, became the first shop to be lit by electric light.
4/9/1881. The Edison electric lighting system went into action in New York as a generator serving 85 paying customers was switched on.
21/10/1879. Thomas Edison successfully demonstrated the first durable light bulb.
20/12/1879, Thomas Edison privately demonstrated his ‘incandescent light’ at Menlo Park, New Jersey.
27/1/1880. Edison patented the electric filament light (the electric light bulb).
1/10/1880, The Edison Lamp Works began operations in New Jersey to manufacture the first electric light bulbs.
20/12/1880, Charles F Brush demonstrated his arc lamps along Broadway, preceding Edison’s lamp in commercial use.
1878, English physicist Joseph Swan ran electricity through a carbon filament encased in a glass bulb from which the air had been evacuated. His prototype incamdescent light lasted for several hours.
31/10/1828, Sir Joseph Swan, inventor of the electric light bulb independently of Edison, was born in Sunderland.