A Brief History of Electrical Engineering: Where Did it All Start?

The Beginning: Static Electricity

Back in 600 BC, Thales of Miletus rubbed together fur and amber, soon discovering that there was some type of attraction. He also noted that if you continued to rub the two materials together a spark would be created. What he had discovered was static electricity, although it would be years before anyone coined the term or could even explain why this happened.

1500s: Electroscopes and Versoriums

Fast forward to the 1500s and William Gilbert (known as the father of electrical engineering) was able to discover why an object became charged or did not.

While he did not have formal electrical training, he played around quite a bit with electricity and created a machine called the versorium. This was the very first device that could indicate if an object was charged or not. Eventually, this item evolved and today you will find it in the classroom of any electrical course and is now known as the electroscope.

1800s: Ohms and the War of Currents

Although a few discoveries were made prior to this time, electrical engineering did not really become much more than a research topic until the 1899s when George Ohm and Michael Faraday made a few new observations. At the end of the century came the 'War of currents' which opened up the doors for electrical engineers. This triggered the debate that centred on AC (alternative current) and DC (direct-current).

It took many years of battle and in those days there was no electrical course that would point out the obvious basics of both types of currents. However, eventually AC became the standard as the most efficient way to transmit electricity. Among its supporters were Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, and eventually even Thomas Edison.

1900s: Exploration and Invention

The 20th century was easily the main era where the potential of electrical engineering was truly explored, with the invention of the radio spurring a great deal of growth. By the time WWII rolled around the radio was transatlantic and an absolute necessity. Later in 1958 the integrated circuit was formed which opened up the door for control systems, signals, microprocessors, and eventually the personal computer.

Although it would still be years before the personal computer became a part of every business place and home, electrical engineering would grow via the need for business networks and internal systems. The 'connected' of the seventies and the eighties is very different then the connected that we know today, but it was nonetheless seen as a notable time in the development and dependence on electrical engineers.

The Present: Electrical Engineering - A Way of Life

Today, every business is dependent in some way on computers and networks. Almost every home is connected to an outside network in some form whether it be Internet, television, or simply to the electrical grid of their local town. Regardless, electrical engineering has become a service sector that the world cannot live without, offering a great deal of job security to those who take the proper courses to get certified. From this point forward, so long as the world turns there will likely be a place for electrical engineers that are devoted to honing their skills.