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FROM THE HISTORY OF ELECTRICITY




There are two types of electricity, namely, electricity at rest or in a static condition and electricity in motion, that is, the electric current. Both of them are made up of electric charges, static charges being at rest, while electric current flows and does work. Thus, they differ in their ability to serve mankind as well as in their behaviour.

Static electricity was the only electrical phenomenon to be observed by man for a long time. At least 2,500 years ago the Greeks knew how to get electricity by rubbing substances. However, the electricity to be obtained by rubbing objects cannot be used to light lamps, to boil water, to run electric trains, and so on. It is usually very high in voltage and difficult to control, besides it discharges in no time.

As early as 1753, Franklin made an important contribution to the science of electricity. He was the first to prove that unlike charges are produced due to rubbing dissimilar objects. To show that the charges are unlike and opposite, he decided to call the charge on the rubber-negative and that on the glass-positive.

In this connection one might remember the Russian academician V. V. Petrov. He was the first to carry on experiments and observations on the electrification of metals by rubbing them one against another. As a result he was the first scientist in the world who solved that problem.

Volta’s discovery of electric current developed out of Galvani's experiments with the frog. Galvani observed that the legs of a dead frog jumped as a result of an electric charge. He tried his experiment several times and every time he obtained the same result. He thought that electricity was generated within the leg itself.

Volta began to carry on similar experiments and soon found that the electric source was not within the frog's leg but was the result of the contact of both dissimilar metals used during his observations. However, to carry on such-experiments was not an easy thing to do. He spent the next few years trying to invent a source of continuous current. To increase the effect obtained with one pair of metals, Volta increased the number of these pairs. Thus the voltaic pile consisted of a copper layer and a layer of zinc placed one above another with a layer of flannel moistened in salt water between them. A wire was connected to the first disc of copper and to the last disc of zinc.

The year 1800 is a date to be remembered: for the first time in the world's history a continuous current was generated.

Volta was born in Como, Italy, on February 18, 1745. For some years he was a teacher of physics in his home town. Later on he became professor of natural sciences at the University of Pavia. After his famous discovery he traveled in many countries, among them France, Germany and England. He was invited to Paris to deliver lectures on the newly discovered chemical source of continuous current. In 1819 he returned to Como where he spent the rest of his life. Volta died at the age of 82.

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