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Endesa - Electricity, Gas, People

5 inventors that made it possible for you to have power today

Published on December 3, 2018

The genius and curiosity of numerous scientists was required for us to have power when we flip a switch. Among them, five names stand out.

Nikola Tesla and alternating current

Tesla is one of the most renowned inventors and engineers. Alternating current was one of his greatest discoveries. It involved him in a bitter war with Edison and an enduring friendship with Westinghouse. He developed the alternating current induction motor in Westinghouse’s laboratories.

Of Serbian origin, he designed a poly-phase system to transmit electricity over long distances and manufactured the world's first radio transmitter, making it possible to send electromagnetic energy from one place to another without using cables. 

Together with his friend Westinghouse, he demonstrated the superiority of alternating current compared to direct current systems. Together they managed to get their discovery to become a part of the experimental centre at Niagara Falls. 

The rotating field theory, the Tesla coil and high frequency generators are some of his other inventions. He battled with Edison for decades over various patents. 

Michael Faraday and electromagnetism

Michael Faraday concentrated his attention on electromagnetism and made several key discoveries, such as electromagnetic induction, the basis for generators and electric motors. Obtaining electricity using a moving magnet and a coil is also attributed to him.

He also thoroughly investigated electrolysis, discovered years before by William Nicholson. Soon after this, Faraday developed two laws, which bear his name: Faraday’s laws of electrolysis. This discovery made him the founder of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.

Faraday demonstrated that magnetism produces electricity by movement.

James Clerk Maxwell and the wireless telegraph 

James Clerk Maxwell took up Faraday's work and expanded his studies on electromagnetic fields.

He developed four differential equations that mathematically related electric and magnetic fields. These equations are named after him and are known as the Maxwell equations.

The investigations by the physicist made it possible for Heinrich Rudolf Hertz to obtain electromagnetic radio waves. Furthermore, the wireless telegraph and radio were born thanks to his advances. In fact, Maxwell’s legacy in all fields is one of the most significant: throughout the previous century, many other scientists, such as Einstein. continued his research.

Edison and the first light bulb

Although many believe that he was the inventor of the light bulb, in reality, what Thomas Alva Edison did was perfect its operation so that it became commercially profitable.

His advances led cities in Europe and the United States to install direct current electrical lighting systems. Years later, this system was replaced by the alternating current system developed by Tesla and Westinghouse, which was ultimately proven to be more efficient and safer.

Edison’s discoveries and research were fundamental in the creation of the radio valve and electronics. In addition, the inventor worked in other fields such as the cinema, electric railway transport and the telegraph.

Westinghouse the pragmatist

George Westinghouse saw his future in Nikola Tesla’s alternating current system. He bought the Serbian's project and perfected it, including an improved transformer, and adding an alternator.

He founded the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company to implement an alternating current system that would replace Edison’s direct current system. He also accumulated about 400 patents in his name, including an innovative system for transporting gas, among others.

Edison did not invent the light bulb, but he perfected it so that it would last longer and would make sense to commercialise it.