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How does electricity make a light work?
What is electricity and who was the first one to discover it?

Electricity is certainly important to us. Without it, we'd be in the dark at night, eat cold food, couldn't use computers and of course couldn't watch TV. We asked Pierre Kerr,, to give us a brief history and description of electricity.

To find out who first discovered electricity, I used the Compton's Encylopedia and it said this:

"The earliest recorded observations about electricity date from about 600 BC and are attributed to the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. He noted that when amber, a fossil resin, was rubbed it would attract feathers or bits of straw. The Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote about similar experiments in AD70 in his 'Natural History'.

"He also mentions shocks given by torpedo fish. In 1600 William Gilbert, an English scientist who was physician to Queen Elizabeth I, published 'De Magnete' (About Magnets). In that book he studied what was already known about amber and lodestone, a mineral that attracts iron. He gave a proof that the attraction exhibited by amber was not magnetic. He also proposed that the Earth behaved as though it were a spherical lodestone. In 1672 the German physicist Otto von Guericke reported the invention of an electric machine:

"A ball of sulfur on a shaft was rotated; if he touched the rotating sulfur ball with his hand, he noted that sparks were produced. He also proved that electrified objects can transfer some of their ability to attract, called charge, to nonelectrified objects.

"About 1745 a German clergyman, E. Georg von Kleist, and a professor at the University of Leiden (sometimes spelled Leyden), Pieter van Musschenbroek, discovered independently that a glass vessel filled with water and charged by a friction source could store the charge for later use. The device became known as the Leyden jar.

"Sir William Watson and Dr. John Bevis of England improved the jar by coating the inside and outside with tinfoil. This vessel could store enough charge to make sparks that would explode gunpowder or set alcohol afire. Watson's most important discovery was that electricity traveled almost instantaneously along a wire about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) in length. In 1746 he suggested that electricity was only one kind of fluid and that an excess or lack of that fluid would account for the two kinds of electricity proposed earlier by Du Fay.

"The statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin of the United States, who is credited with the invention of the lightning rod, was an advocate of Watson's one-fluid model. Apparently the enormous respect commanded by Franklin was significant in the widespread acceptance of Watson's model. It was not until the 1890s, however, that a clear understanding of what electricity is finally emerged, showing that both Du Fay and Watson were correct in some ways.

As you can see, many people were involved with discoveries about electricity. I think Benjamin Franklin was one of the most famous since he was flying a kite in a lightening storm and when lightening struck his kite he got a big shock. He really discovered electricity, ouch.

Now, about the question "How is electricity made". Again, there are several answers. A battery makes electricity because of a chemical reaction. Perhaps we can put a battery in the library that is made of two potatoes! A car has a battery that is made of pieces of lead and zinc surrounded with a strong acid.

Electricity in your house comes from large generators. They look like huge motors and water falling from a waterfall turns these generators creating electricity. Then the electricity goes along wires on telephone poles to your house.

You can also create static electricity by walking on a carpet with socks on and then touching something like a water tap. You may get zapped. That's static electricity.

A light works with electriciy becuase inside a light bulb is a special kind of wire that gets very hot when electricity goes through it. It gets so hot that it glows white. If you've ever seen a toaster or electric stove get red when it's hot, that's the same sort of thing. A light bulb gets much hotter.

Now if you go to your school library, you'll find lot's of books about electricity and light bulbs. Here are a few of them.

How Does It work

Jack Long

600 LON

Exploring Energy Sources

Ed Catherall


Finally, here is a transcript from the TV show Newton's Apple. This show was about electricity.

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