Chronography of Atomic Power and Electricity

Page last modified 24 October 2023


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See also Science and Technology

See also Atom Bomb Tests and Development


Real-time data on UK national grid here,


The atom and atomic power � see Appendix 1 below

Appendix 2b, Nuclear energy, power stations

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 July 2012, The Higgs Boson was discovered at CERN. Its existence was first theorised by British physicist Peter Higgs (born 1929) in 1964.

17 November 2010, Scientists at the CERN Large Hadron Collider announced they had trapped anti-matter for the first time in human history.

10 September 2008, The Large Hadron Collider began operations.

28 February 2006, Professor Owen Chamberlain, physicist who discovered the anti-proton, died (born 10 July 1920)

13 October 2003, Bertram Brockhouse, subatomic physicist, died.

25 June 1995, Ernest Walton, winner of the Nobel Physics Prize in 1951 for his work in subatomic physics, died.

5 June 1995, Bose-Einstein condensate was created.

2 March 1995, Scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, reported finding the top quark, the last of six quarks believed to be the fundamental building blocks of matter

23 February 1989, Stanley Pins and Martin Flieschmann announced Cold Fusion at the University of Utah.

1 September 1988, Luis Walter Alvarez, researcher into subatomic particles, born 13 June 1911 in San Francisco, California, died in Berkeley, California.

15 February 1988, Richard F Feynman, theoretical physicist, died.

5 December 1986, Researchers at IBM invented the atomic force microscope.

31 May 1986, James Rainwater, physicist who help0ed determine the shape of atomic nuclei, died.

November 1985, In the UK, the Nuclear Industry Radio-Radio-Active Waste Executive (NIREX) was established.

8 April 1984, Pyotr Kapitza, Soviet low-temperature physicist, died aged 89.

22 September 1979, Otto Frisch, Austrian-British nuclear physicist, died aged 74.

5 February 1977, Oscar Klein, particle physicist, died.

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,

13 November 1974, Karen Silkwood, activist over nuclear industry safety concerns, died in unclear circumstances in a car crash.

1968, Protons were found to contain smaller particles, known as quarks.

18 September 1967, Sir John Cockroft, British scientist who along with Ernest Walton split the atom, died.

1960, Radiocarbon dating was discovered by Willard Libby.

14 July 1960, Maurice de Broglie, French physicist (studied X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy), died aged 85

15 November 1959, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson, Scottish physicist who invented the cloud chamber for detecting the tracks of subatomic particles, died in Carlops, Peebleshire.

28 August 1958, Ernest O Lawrence, US nuclear scientist, died aged 57.

24 January 1958, Sir John Cockroft announced that scientists at Harwell, using a machine called Zeta, had succeeded in heating material to 5 million degrees C and holding it there for several thousandths of a second., This was a step towards achieving fusion.

1957, The first atomic powered ship, the Russian icebreaker Lenin, was launched.

2 October 1957, Poland, along with Hungary and East Germany, outlined its Rapacki Plan for a denuclearised central Europe to the UN General Assembly.

15 January 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.

22 September 1956, Frederick Soddy, English radiochemist, died aged 79.

17 March 1956, The daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie died of leukaemia, possibly brought on by working with radioactive materials.

15 June 1955, The USA and Britain signed an atomic energy agreement, providing for the exchange of information between them.

3 May 1955, The USA and Turkey signed the first Atoms for Peace pact. There would be a research nuclear reactor in Turkey, with work on the use of radioactive isotopes in medicine, agriculture and industry.

15 February 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 November 1954, Enrico Fermi, atomic physicist, died in Chicago, USA.

29 September 1954, CERN, the Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire, was founded.

21 January 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 December 1953, R A Millikan, US subatomic physicist, died aged 85.

8 December 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.

1952, The Bubble Chamber was invented by Donald Glaser. It utilises the tracks made by subatomic particles in apressurised liquid medium to study fission products.

14 June 1952, Construction began on the world�s first nuclear submarine.

30 April 1950. Britain The UK�s Atomic Energy Commission accused the Scientific American journal of publishing secrets on how to build a Hydrogen Bomb. 30,000 copies were seized and destroyed.


Einstein and Relativity

26 July 2018, Observations of a Black Hole by the Very Large telescope in Chile confirmed Einstein�s predictions of a gravitational redshift of light.

18 April 1955. Albert Einstein, born 14 March 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.

30 March 1953, Albert Einstein announced a revised Unifield Field Theory.

26 December 1949. Albert Einstein published his new Generalized Theory of Gravitation.

17 October 1933, Albert Einstein arrived in the US as a refugee from Nazi Germany.

17 September 1933, Albert Einstein, fleeing Nazi Germany, arrived in the UK. He reached the USA in October.

11 November 1930, Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard received US Patent No. 1781541 for the Einstein Fridge, This appliance needed no moving parts, so was less liable to seal failure, which had killed a Berlin family when a fridge seal failure leaked toxic fumes. However the Einstein Fridge was less efficient than other designs, and was abandoned when non-toxic Freon was invented, although freon was later discovered to deplete the ozone layer.

29 July 1923, Albert Einstein lectured in pacifism in Berlin.

9 November 1921, Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

2 April 1921, Albert Einstein gave lectures on his Theory of Relativity in New York.

17 February 1921, The scientific journal Nature devoted its entire issue to the General Theory of Relativity after the Eddington experiment observations made during the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919.

2 June 1919, Albert Einstein, aged 40, married his cousin Elsa Lowenthal, aged 43. See 14 February 1919.

29 May 1919, Albert Einstein�s Special Theory of Relativity, asserting that light will be bent as it approaches a massive body, was confirmed by Arthur Eddington�s observations of a solar eclipse on Principe, west Africa.

14 February 1919, Albert Einstein, aged 39, divorced his wife Mileva Maric after 16 years marriage, see 6 January 1903, 2 June 1919.

20 March 1916, Einstein�s Theory of Relativity was published in German. The Theoiry accounted for the slow rotation of Mercury, and revolutionised physics and astronomy.

1915, The start of the General Theory of Relativity was derived from the Special Theory of Relativity.

28 September 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.

30 June 1905, Albert Einstein published his article �On the Electrodyamics of Moving Bodies�. This was the first paper to mention special relativity, which revolutionised modern physics.

9 June 1905, Albert Einstein first described his theory of the photoelectric effect.

17 March 1905, Albert Einstein completed his scientific paper detailing his Quantum Theory of |Light, now a cornerstone of modern physics.

6 January 1903, Albert Einstein, now aged 23, married Mileva Maric (see 14 February 1919)

23 June 1902. Albert Einstein began work in the Swiss Patent Office.

28 July 1900, In Zurich, Albert Einstein received his diploma from technical school, the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH).

14 March 1879. Albert Einstein, physicist and mathematician, was born in Ulm, Bavaria, to Jewish parents.


1 December 1949, US Physicist Willard Libby invented carbon dating.

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.

4 October 1947, The German physicist, Max Planck, died at his home in Gottingen, aged 89. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1918 for his work on quantum physics and black-body radiation.

1946, The isotope Carbon-13 was discovered. Bloch and Purcell discovered the phenomenon of magnetic resonance.

25 January 1946, Chancellor Robert M Hutchins of the University of Chicago told a US Senate Committee that atomic energy must be used to �defeat war and develop its energy in a world at peace�.

29 October 1945. The Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment was set up.

1941, US chemist Glenn Seaborg isolated Plutonium, a key element in a nuclear bomb.

1940, The critical mass of Uranium-235 was first calculated. The possibility of a �superbomb� (atom bomb) was now a reality.

30 August 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.

27 February 1940, The isotope Carbon-14 was discovered by Martin Kamen at Berkeley University, California.

18 December 1938, Nuclear fission first achieved. German chemist Otto Hahn succeeded in splitting the uranium atom, releasing energy.

19 October 1937. The New Zealand born physicist Lord Rutherford died in Cambridge, England.. He is regarded as the founder of atomic energy.He won the Nobel Prize in 1908.

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 January 1936, Samuel Chao Chung Ting was born in Arbor, Michigan. In 1974 he discovered a new subatomic particle, the J/psi particle.

4 July 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).

12 September 1933, Jewish Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard first conceived of the �chain reaction�, the mechanism behind a nuclear weapon. He worked on the Manhattan Project in 1945, but later became a vehement opponent pof nuclear weapons.

3 September 1933, Jeffry Goldstone, subatomic particle researcher, was born in Manchester, England.

1932, English physicist Sir James Chadwick (1891-1974) discovered the neutron.

2 August 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 April 1932, Sir James Cockcroft and Ernest Walton split a lithium nucleus into two alpha particles, producing excess energy, using a particle accelerator.

5 December 1932, Sheldon Glashow was born in New York City, USA. In 1964 he introduced the concept of �charm� in quark theory.

29 December 1931, US chemist Harold C Urey of Columbia University announced the discovery of heavy water.

15 September 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 September 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.

26 August 1926, British physicist Paul Dirac, independently of Fermi, also explained the existence of fundamental particles.

7 February 1926, Enrico Fermi showed how f8undamenta; particles of matter obeyed the Exclusion Principle.

25 November 1924, Louis de Broglie described the wave particle theory of matter.

1923, The existence of the photon was proved by US physicist AH Compton. It transmits the electromagnetic force.

3 June 1920, Ernest Rutherford coined the term proton.

3 January 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 December 1918, Max Planck won the Physics Nobel prize for his work on quantum mechanics.

11 May 1918, US quantum physicist Richard Feynman was born (died 1988).

5 February 1915, Robert Hofstadter was born in New York City, USA. In 1961 he determined the internal structure of the proton and neutron.

12 September 1917, Leo James Rainwater was born in Council, Idaho. In 1949 he worked on the idea that the atomic nucleus was not spherical.

5 April 1913, Danish scientist Neils Bohr (1881-1962) described the structure of the atom.

30 August 1912, Edward Mills Purcell, US atomic physicist, was born.

21 April 1912, Walter Friedrich and Paul Knipping demonstrated that X rays difftracted by a crystal can show the positions of individual atoms.

7 March 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 February 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 February 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 December 1908, Birth of US chemist Willard Frank Libby, who developed radio-carbon dating.

10 December 1908. Ernest Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on radioactivity and the atom.

4 November 1908, Sir Joseph Rotblat, scientist who helped develop the atomic bomb, was born (died 29 August 2005)

25 August 1908, Henri Becquerel, French scientist who studied radioactivity, died (born 1852).

15 January 1908, Edward Teller, who invented the Hydrogen Bomb, was born in Budapest.

1907, The concept of �half-life� was first used, as the time it takes for the radiation emission levels of an isotope to fall by 50%.

19 April 1906, Pierre Curie, French scientist who discovered Radium, was run over and killed in Paris.

3 September 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.

31 August 1905, Robert Fox Bacher, US atomic physicist, was born,

22 November 1904, Hannes Alfven of Sweden was born. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for work in plasma physics.

1 October 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.

22 April 1904. Robert Oppenheimer, American scientist who developed the US atomic bomb at Los Alamos, was born in New York City.

10 December 1903. Marie Curie, aged 33, won the Nobel Prize jointly with her husband for the discovery of radioactivity.

11 July 1902, Samuel Goudsmit, physicist, was born in The Hague, Netherlands. In 1925, along with George Uhlenbeck (born Batavia, Indonesia, 6 December 1900), he formulated the hypothesis of the electron spin.

29 September 1901, Enrico Fermi, atomic physicist, was born in Rome, Italy.

27 June 1901, Atomic physicist Merle Tuve was born in the USA.

1900, The gamma ray (high energy photon) was discovered. It is a very high-frequency X ray.

1900, In Britain, William Crookes separated the isotopes of uranium.

14 December 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 December 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. This destroyed the idea that the �atom�, meaning indivisible� in Greek, was a single entity. He also showed that each element was characterised by having a certain set number of electrons (protons) in its atoms.

1897, CTR Wilson invented the Cloud Chamber, for the study of radioactive decay.

27 May 1897, John Cockroft, nuclear physicist, was born in Yorkshire.

11 February 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 April 1893, Physicist Harold Clayton Urey was born in Walkerton, Indiana. In 1932 he discovered deuterium or heavy hydrogen.

20 October 1891, Sir James Chadwick, who discovered the neutron in 1932, was born in Manchester.

7 October 1885, Niels Henrik Bohr was born in Copenhagen. In 1911 he first attempted to link Planck�s constant to atomic structure.

8 March 1879, Birth of Otto Hahn, discoverer of nuclear fission, who received the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1944.

30 August 1871, Lord Rutherford, British scientist noted in the field of atomic research, was born in Spring Grove, near Nelson, South Island, New Zealand.

18 December 1856, Sir Joseph John Thomson, discoverer of the electron, was born in Cheetham Hill near Manchester. He was the son of a bookseller.


Appendix 2b, Nuclear energy, power stations

1995, Sizewell B nuclear power station opened, see 1966.

30 April 1986, After unusually high radiation levels were detected in Scandinavia, the USSR acknowledged that an accident had taken place at Chernobyl.

26 April 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 April 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.

23 March 1980. In a referendum, Sweden approved the use of nuclear power.

9 April 1979, Officials declared Three Mile Island nuclear power station to be safe, see 29 March 1979.

29 March 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 April 1979.

17 October 1956. Calder Hall, Britain�s first nuclear power station, in Cumbria, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II.Generation of power had begun on 20 August 1956.

1974, The Dounreay nuclear reactor, Scotland, began operations.

24 August 1970. Radioactive leak at Windscale, Cumbria.

19 January 1970. India�s first nuclear power station opened.

1966, The first nuclear power station at Sizewell, Suffolk, England , opened, see 1995.

5 April 1963, Bradwell nuclear power station opened in the UK.

15 June 1962, Berkeley nuclear power station in Gloucestershire began operating.

14 November 1959, The Dounreay fast breeder reactor in Scotland began operating.

2 May 1959, The first nuclear power station in Scotland, at Chapelcross, began operations.

8 December 1958, The last of the four nuclear reactors at Calder Hall began operating.

17 October 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 October 1957. A major radiation leak was detected at Windscale after an accident three days earlier.

29 July 1957. International Atomic Energy Agency established.

20 August 1956. Calder Hall, the world�s first large-scale nuclear power station, began operating.

8 August 1955, The International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Power opened in Geneva.

17 July 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.

1 August 1954, The UK Atomic Energy Authority was founded.

27 June 1954. The first Soviet nuclear power station was opened, at Obninsk, 55 miles from Moscow.

1 March 1954, The UK Parliament approved of establishing an Atomic Energy Authority.

22 July 1953, Construction of Calder Hall nuclear power station began.

25 February 1952, The Plutonium plant at Windscale began operations.

19 November 1951, The world�s first atomic central heating plant began operating, in Harwell.

15 December 1948. France�s first nuclear reactor began operating.

15 August 1947. The UK�s first atomic reactor, at Harwell, began operating.

20 December 1942. The US began to produce electricity from nuclear fission.

2 December 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.

12 January 1903, Igor Vasilevich Kurchatov was born in Sim, Russia. In 1946 he became director of the first Soviet nuclear reactor.

12 May 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.


Appendix 3� Electricity See also lighting.

15 October 1985, Sir Clive Sinclair, maker of the C5 electric tricycle, called in the receivers.

10 January 1985, Clive Sinclair launched the C5, a battery-powered tricycle. Priced at �399, 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 March 1982, Nikolay Petrovich, Soviet electrical engineer, died.

27 December 1968, ECStoner, 69, English theoretical physicist known for his discoveries in ferromagnetism, died aged 69.

26 November 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 (UK� 42 million) to build.

15 December 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.


US farm electrification


% farms electrified (number of farms)


Over 89%


Over 75%


52.0% (3,106,000)


42.4% (2,573,000)


38.3% (2,337,000)


27.1% (1,870,000)


19.1% (1,300,000)


12.3% (840,000)


10.9% (744,000)


15 July 1950, Lord Citrine opened the British Electricity Laboratories (now the Central Electricity Research Laboratories) at Leatherhead.


UK domestic electrification


% of homes

No. of homes























1949, 86% of UK homes had electricity. 79% of UK homes had gas, and 68% had both utilities.

13 August 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 January 1943. Nikola Tesla, the Croatian-American scientist who developed alternating current, died.

1 January 1940. Two thirds of Britain�s houses were wired for electricity, compared to one in seventeen in 1920.

18 June 1939, Arthur Edwin Kennelly, British-US electrical engineer, died in Boston, Massachusetts.

29 October 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 October 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 inventedthe 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.

3 February 1925, Oliver Heaviside, English physicist and electrical engineer, died in Paignton, Devon.

28 April 1911, Dutch scientist Heike Kamerlinghe Onnes discovered superconductivity. He liquefied helium at 4.2 Kelvin; at this temperature electrons associate in Cooper Pairs and move through the metal without resistance.

8 November 1908, William Edward Ayrton, English electrical physicist, (born 14 September 1847 in London) died in London.

12 October 1908, London hosted an international conference to agree on standardised electrical units, with 18 countries attending.

1907, The Hurley Machine Co of Chicago began selling the first electric washing machine, the Thor, in the US.

9 December 1907, Noel Walton Bott, pioneer of wave energy for electrical power, was born. (died 7 June 1996)

18 February 1907, The diode was patented for Lee de Forest at the US Patent Office.

1905, The Cathode Ray Tube was first produced. It is a vacuum tube in which cathode rays can be projected onto a fluorescent screen. It was later to be used for television.

20 December 1901, Robert Van de Graaff, inventor of the Van de Graaff generator, was born.

1900, Magnetic tape was invented.

22 January 1900, David Hughes, electrical scientist, died (born 16 May 1831)

7 January 1900, Nikola Tesla closed down his laboratory in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after seven months of experiments in the long-distance transmission of energy.

6 December 1892, Ernst Seimens, German electrical researcher, died in Berlin (born 13 December 1816 in Hanover)

30 October 1898, Josiah Clark, British electrical engineer, died (born 10 March 1822).

1 August 1896, Sir William Grove, electrical innovator, died (born 11 July 1811).

10 March 1894, Paul Jablochkov, Russian electrical engineer, died (born 14 September 1847)

23 September 1892, The Dublin Corporation Electricity Works began operations.


Start of hydroelectric power

1889, The first dam built to serve a hydroelectric plant was built at Oregon City, Oregon, USA, on the Williamette River.

30 September 1882, Water power was used to produce electricity for the first time, at a plant on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin, USA.


1888, Electric sockets incorporating an on/off switch were patented by the English inventor David Salomons.

1887, Electric power first appeared in Japan.

12 June 1885, Henry Jenkin, British electrical engineer, died (25 March 1833).

1884, The ammeter came into use in electrical engineering.

17 July 1883, A boat powered by stored electricity ran from the Temple Pier, London, to Greenwich in 37 minutes.

1882, Nikola Tesla discovered that atoms have a magnetic field.

1 September 1882, Kimberley became the first town in Africa to have electric lighting.

6 July 1882, The first electric iron was patented, by Henry Seeley of New York.

1 October 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 May 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 April 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 May 1878, Joseph Henry, electrical scientist, died (born 17 December 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.

22 January 1867, Sir William Harris, electrical scientist, died (born 1 April 1791).

2 July 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 February 1858. The first electric burglar alarm was installed by Edwin T Holmes of Boston Massachusetts.

12 June 1854, Charles Algernon Parsons was born in London. In 1884 he designed and installed the first steam turbine generator for electric power.

7 July 1854, George Ohm, German scientist who pioneered work on electricity, died in Munich.

29 March 1853, Elihu Thomson, English inventor who co-founded the General Electric Company with Thomas Edison, was born.

11 October 1851, Paul Erman, electrical scientist, died (born 29 February 1764).

4 December 1850, William Sturgeon, who devised the first electro-magnet, died at Prestwich, near Manchester.

11 February 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 February 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 June 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 August 1835, Elisha Gray, US electrical inventor, was born (died 21 January 1901).

25 March 1833, Henry Jenkin, British electrical engineer, was born (died 12 June 1885).


Michael Faraday, 1791-1867. Transformers, motors, induction

25 August 1867. Michael Faraday, scientist and inventor, pioneer in electromagnetism, died at Hampton Court.

24 November 1831, Michael Faraday gave a practical demonstration of electrical induction to the Royal Society, Britain.

27 October 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 October 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 August 1831, Michael Faraday demonstrated the first electrical transformer.

22 September 1791, Chemist and physicist Michael Faraday was born at Newington Butts, London.He was the son of a blacksmith.


1827, Ohm announced the Law of Electrical Resistance.

5 March 1827. Death of Count Alessandro Volta, aged 82, at Como, Italy.He was born on 18 February 1745.An Italian, he made the first battery, and gave his name (Volt) to the unit of electrical power.

12 March 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.

1822, English physicist William Sturgeon, aged 40, made the first electromagnet. He varnished an iron bar to insulate it, wrapped it in copper wire, and connected the wire to a voltaic pile, to make a device that could lift a few pounds of iron.

10 March 1822, Josiah Clark, British electrical engineer, was born (died 30 October 1898).

April 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 July 1811, Sir William Grove, electrical innovator, was born (died 1 August 1896).

21 December 1809, Tiberius Cavallo, electrical scientist, died (born 30 March 1749).

23 August 1806, Charles Coulomb, electrical scientist, died (born 14 June 1736).

8 November 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.

14 September 1698, French electrical scientist Charles Francois de Cisternay du Fay was born in Paris. In 1733 he determined that there were two types of electrical charge, positive and negative, and that like charges repelled whilst opposite charges attracted.

17 December 1797, Joseph Henry, electrical scientist, was born (died 13 May 1878).

1 April 1791, Sir William Harris, electrical scientist, born (died 22 January 1867).

1789, Luigi Galvani discovered galvanic current.

16 March 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 May 1783, William Sturgeon, English scientist who made the first practical electromagnet, was born in Whittington, Lancashire.

27 May 1781, Giovanni Beccaria, Italian electrical physicist, died in Turin (born in Mondovi 3 October 1716).

22 January 1775, Andre Ampere French mathematician and scientist, and founder of the science of electromagnetics, was born in Lyons, son of a wealthy merchant.

22 March 1772, John Canton, English scientist died (born 31 July 1718).

29 February 1764, Paul Erman, electrical scientist, was born (died 11 October 1851).

30 November 1753, Benjamin Franklin received the Godfrey Copley medal for his �curious experiments and observations on electricity�.

10 June 1752, Benjamin Franklin tested the lightning conductor with his kite-flying experiment.

30 March 1749, Tiberius Cavallo, electrical scientist, was born (died 21 December 1809).

1747, Abbe Jean Antoine Nollet, born in Pimprez, France, 19 November 1700, invented the first electrometer.It comprised a suspended pith ball.

18 February 1745, Alessandro Volta, Italian scientist, was born in Como.

1742, Musschenbroek discovered the Leyden Jar.

14 June 1736, Charles Coulomb, electrical scientist, was born (died 23 August 1806).

31 July 1718, John Canton, English scientist (died 22 March 1772) was born. He developed a method of manufacturing artificial magnets.

3 October 1716, Giovanni Beccaria, Italian electrical physicist, was born in Mondovi (died in Turin 27 May 1781).

12 March 1683, John Theophile Desaguliers, French electrical scientist, was born in La Rochelle.

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 (See also Light, Cameras, Optics)

9 May 1932. Piccadilly Circus first lit by electricity.

7 March 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.

19 January 1883, The first electrical lighting system employing overhead wires began operating at Roselle, New Jersey, USA.

22 December 1882, The first string of Christmas lights was made by Edward H Johnson, a colleague of Thomas Edison.

4 September 1882, The Edison Electric Illuminating Company began producing electricity at Pearl Street, New York, USA. It had a total of 85 customers.

12 January 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 April 1882. In New York, USA, electric power was switched on from 4 September 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 January 1882, A drapers shop in Newcastle on Tyne, England, became the first shop to be lit by electric light.

4 September 1881. The Edison electric lighting system went into action in New York as a generator serving 85 paying customers was switched on.

27 January 1880. Edison patented the electric filament light (the electric light bulb).

1 October 1880, The Edison Lamp Works began operations in New Jersey to manufacture the first electric light bulbs.

20 December 1880, Charles F Brush demonstrated his arc lamps along Broadway, preceding Edison�s lamp in commercial use.

20 December 1879, Thomas Edison privately demonstrated his �incandescent light� at Menlo Park, New Jersey.

21 October 1879. Thomas Edison successfully demonstrated the first durable light bulb.

18 December 1878, Joseph Wilson Swan, 50, deomonstrated an electric light bulb in Newcastle on Tyne, England. However it did not achieve true incandescence

15 October 1878, The Edison Electric Light Company was founded.

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 October 1828, Sir Joseph Swan, inventor of the electric light bulb independently of Edison, was born in Sunderland.


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