William Gilbert

William Gilbert (English; 24 May 1544 – 30 November 1603) Also known as Gilberd, was a physician, physicist and natural philosopher. He passionately rejected both the prevailing Aristotelian philosophy and the Scholastic method of university teaching. He is remembered today largely for his book De Magnete (1600), and is credited as one of the originators of the term “electricity”. He is regarded by some as the father of electrical engineering or electricity and magnetism. A unit of magnetomotive force, also known as magnetic potential, was named the gilbert in his honour. Read more… More

Otto von Guericke

Otto von Guericke (German; November 20, 1602 – May 11, 1686) Scientist, inventor, and politician. His major scientific achievements were the establishment of the physics of vacuums, the discovery of an experimental method for clearly demonstrating electrostatic repulsion, and his advocacy of the reality of “action at a distance” and of “absolute space”. Read more… More

Francis Hauksbee

Francis Hauksbee (English; 1660–1713), Also known as Francis Hawksbee, was an 18th-century scientist best known for his work on electricity and electrostatic repulsion. Initially apprenticed in 1678 to his elder brother as a draper, Hauksbee became Isaac Newton’s lab assistant. Hauksbee had discovered that if he placed a small amount of mercury in the glass of his modified version of Otto von Guericke’s generator, evacuated the air from it to create a mild vacuum and rubbed the ball in order to build up a charge, a glow was visible if he placed his hand on the outside of the ball. … More

Émilie du Châtelet

Émilie du Châtelet (France; 17 December 1706 – 10 September 1749) Mathematician, physicist, and author. She derived from Newton’s work, “Principia Mathematica”, the notion of conservation of energy. Part of this was the understanding that the kinetic energy of a moving object was equal to the mass of the object times the square of it’s velocity or MV². Albert Einstein took this further with his equation E=MC² which described the relationship between energy and matter, and how one can be converted to the other. Her scientific work was not directly related to electricity, but was so significant to understanding energy … More

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (American; January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) Franklin’s most famous electric experiment was his kite experiment in which he discovered that lightning was a form of electricity. Whether through knowledge or luck, evidence shows that Franklin was insulated during this experiment. Several others who attempted to repeat this experiment were horribly electrocuted. He followed up on this discovery with the invention of the lightning rod which safely diverted lightning strikes on a building to an earth grounding electrode. These strikes were a common cause of fire for large buildings, and his invention was so effective and appreciated that … More