August 11, 2022

Electricity (from Latin electricus, further from other Greek ἤλεκτρον) is a set of phenomena caused by the existence, interaction and movement of electric charges. The term was introduced by the English naturalist William Gilbert in his essay “On the Magnet, Magnetic Bodies, and the Great Magnet – the Earth” (1600), which explains the operation of a magnetic compass and describes some experiments with electrified bodies. He found that other substances also have the property of being electrified.


Long before there was any knowledge of electricity, people knew about the properties of electric fish. Ancient Egyptian texts dating back to 2750 BC. BC, they refer to these fish as the "Thunderers of the Nile" and describe them as the "protectors" of all other fish. Thousands of years later, ancient Greek, Roman and Arab naturalists and doctors again reported on electric fish. Some ancient writers, such as Pliny the Elder and Scribonius Largus, testified to the paralyzing effect of electrical discharges produced by electric catfish and electric rays, and knew that such discharges could travel along conductive objects. Patients suffering from ailments such as gout or headaches were instructed to touch electric fish in the hope that a powerful discharge would cure them. Ancient Mediterranean cultures knew that some objects, such as amber sticks, could be rubbed with cat fur to attract the lungs items such as feathers. Thales of Miletus made a number of observations of static electricity around 600 BC. BC, from which he concluded that friction makes amber magnetic - in contrast to minerals such as magnetite, which do not need to be rubbed. Thales was wrong in believing that attraction is due to a magnetic effect, but later science would prove the connection between magnetism and electricity. For a long time, knowledge about electricity did not go beyond such ideas. Although there is a polemical theory based on the discovery in 1936 of the so-called Baghdad battery, suggesting the use of galvanic cells in antiquity, it is not clear whether the said artifact was electrical in its own way.