1752 - Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with a metal key tied to the string during a thunderstorm to prove that lightning was electric.
1800s - Italian scientist Alessandro Volta created the first electric cell battery by soaking paper in salt water, placing zinc and copper on opposite sides of the paper and examining the electric current produced in the chemical reaction.
English scientists William Nicholson and Sir Anthony Carlisle discovered that applying electric current to water produced hydrogen and oxygen gases. This process was later termed “electrolysis.”
English scientist Michael Faraday discovered that an electric current could be created by passing a magnet through a copper wire.
1838 - The fuel cell effect, combining hydrogen and oxygen gases to produce water and an electric current, was discovered by Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schoenbein.
1876 - William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day discovered that selenium produces electricity when exposed to light. Although selenium solar cells fail to convert enough sunlight to power electrical equipment, they prove that a solid material can change light into electricity without heat or moving parts.
1879 - American inventor Thomas Edison produced a reliable, long-lasting electric light bulb in his laboratory.
1880 - By the end of the 1880s, small electrical stations based on Edison’s designs were in a number of UScities. But each station was able to power only a few city blocks.
In the late-1800s, Nikola Tesla created the transformer to transport electricity over long distances. Tesla’s inventions brought electricity to light the inside of our homes and to power industrial machines.
1882 - Thomas Edison built the first practical coal-fired electric generating station, supplying electricity to some residents of New York City using a direct current (DC) system.
1886 - About 45 water-powered electric plants were open in the US and Canada.
1887 - Heinrich Hertz discovered that ultraviolet light alters the lowest voltage capable of causing a spark to jump between two metal electrodes.
1895 - Using the newly discovered alternating current (AC) power system, George Westinghouse opened the first major power plant at Niagara Falls. This AC plant could transport electricity more than 200 miles.