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was largely an intellectual matter until 1600, when electricity and magnetism
were actually investigated at length by William Gilbert, who actually named
this phenomenon after the amber rods he used in his investigations.
Electricity remained largely an academic curiosity for many years, being
studied by such illustrious scientists as Benjamin Franklin and Luigi Galvani.
Electricity was harnessed for practical applications in 1821, when Michael
Farraday fabricated the first electric motor. Throughout the mid to late
1800’s, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla invented a plethora of electrical
devices that wove electricity into the very fabric of daily life, and set the
stage for the ubiquitous applications of electricity that we see today.
Until the 19th century, a power bill was absolutely unheard of world wide.
This all changed with the invention of the first battery, what was then known
as the ‘voltaic pile’. By arranging a series of voltaic cells, one was able to
fashion a rudimentary battery that could supply a fair amount of power for the
time. They still didn’t provide a feasible power source for sustained use, so
further research continued, yielding the Daniell cell in 1836, which was
actually able to sustain a telegraph network. By the end of the 19th century,
the dry cell had been invented, and electricity was even being used to power
portable devices. However, the primary source of electricity generation that
would eventually be adopted was the Howard steam turbine, which was invented
in 1884, and still accounts for as much as 80% of the world’s electricity
At first, electricity seemed as though it were a simple novelty, and most
consumers even in the late 19th century never thought that electricity would
be used for much more than powering their street lamps and their telegraph
offices because electricity prices were so exorbitantly high. As the steam
turbine was phased into use, and electricity production became both
significantly easier and much faster, the price fell, and soon electricity was
finding its way into homes. After this point, the invention of electrical
devices really began to take off and with them the electricity market. The
late 20th century saw the privatisation of the electricity market in a number
of countries, beginning with Chile. In 1990, Margaret Thatcher privatized the
UK market, and this deregulation of the electricity market evolved into the
trade system that we have today, wherein electricity is bought and sold just
like any other commodity.
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