History of electrical engineering

In the sciences, once a hypothesis is proven and accepted, it becomes one of the building blocks of that area of study, permitting additional investigation and development. Naturally, the more pieces of a puzzle available, the more obvious the avenue toward a possible solution. In fact, history demonstrates that a single development may provide the key that will result in a mushroom effect that brings the science to a new plateau of understanding and impact.
As you will see from the discussion of the late 1700s and the early 1800s, inventions, discoveries, and theories came fast and furiously. Each new concept has broadened the possible areas of application until it becomes almost impossible to trace developments without picking a particular area of interest and following it through.
There is a tendency when reading about the great scientists, inventors, and innovators to believe that their contribution was a totally individual effort. In many instances, this was not the case. In fact, many of the great contributors were friends or associates who provided support and encouragement in their efforts to investigate various theories. At the very least, they were aware of one another's efforts to the degree possible in the days when a letter was often the best form of communication. In particular, note the closeness of the dates during periods of rapid development. One contributor seemed to spur on the efforts of the others or possibly provided the key needed to continue with the area of interest.
In the early stages, the contributors were not electrical, electronic, or computer engineers as we know them today. In most cases, they were physicists, chemists, mathematicians, or even philosophers. In addition, they were not from one or two communities of the Old World. The home country of many of the major contributors introduced in the paragraphs to follow is provided to show that almost every established community had some impact on the development of the fundamental laws of electrical circuits.
As you proceed through the remaining chapters of the text, you will find that a number of the units of measurement bear the name of major contributors in those areas, volt after Count Alessandro Volta, ampere after Andre Ampere, ohm after Georg Ohm, and so forth fitting recognition for their important contributions to the birth of a major field of study.
In essence, the current state of the art is a result of efforts that began in earnest some 250 years ago, with progress in the last 100 years almost exponential.

The Beginning

The phenomenon of static electricity has been toyed with since antiquity. The Greeks called the fossil resin substance so often used to demonstrate the effects of static electricity elektron, but no extensive study was made of the subject until William Gilbert researched the event in 1600. In the years to follow, there was a continuing investigation of electrostatic charge by many individuals such as Otto von Guericke, who developed the first machine to generate large amounts of charge, and Stephen Gray, who was able to transmit electrical charge over long distances on silk threads. Charles DuFay demonstrated that charges either attract or repel each other, leading him to believe that there were two types of charge - a theory we subscribe to today with our defined positive and negative charges.
There are many who believe that the true beginnings of the electrical era lie with the efforts of Pieter van Musschenbroek and Benjamin Franklin. In 1745, van Musschenbroek introduced the Leyden jar for the storage of electrical charge (the first capacitor) and demonstrated electrical shock (and therefore the power of this new form of energy). Franklin used the Leyden jar some seven years later to establish that lightning is simply an electrical discharge, and he expanded on a number of other important theories including the definition of the two types of charge as positive and negative. From this point on, new discoveries and theories seemed to occur at an increasing rate as the number of individuals performing research in the area grew.
In 1784, Charles Coulomb demonstrated in Paris that the force between charges is inversely related to the square of the distance between the charges. In 1791, Luigi Galvani, professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, Italy, performed experiments on the effects of electricity on animal nerves and muscles. The first voltaic cell, with its ability to produce electricity through the chemical action of a metal dissolving in an acid, was developed by another Italian, Alessandro Volta, in 1799.
The fever pitch continued into the early 1800s with Hans Christian Oersted, a Swedish professor of physics, announcing in 1820 a relationship between magnetism and electricity that serves as the foundation for the theory of electromagnetism as we know it today. In the same year, a French physicist, Andre, demonstrated that there are magnetic effects around every current-carrying conductor and that current-carrying conductors can attract and repel each other just like magnets. In the period 1826 to 1827, a German physicist, Georg Ohm, introduced an important relationship between potential, current, and resistance which we now refer to as Ohm's law. In 1831, an English physicist, Michael Faraday, demonstrated his theory of electromagnetic induction, whereby a changing current in one coil can induce a changing current in another coil, even though the two coils are not directly connected. Professor Faraday also did extensive work on a storage device he called the condenser, which we refer to today as a capacitor.
He introduced the idea of adding a dielectric between the plates of a capacitor to increase the storage capacity. James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish professor of natural philosophy, performed extensive mathematical analyses to develop what are currently called Maxwell's equations, which support the efforts of Faraday linking electric and magnetic effects. Maxwell also developed the electromagnetic theory of light in 1862, which, among other things, revealed that electromagnetic waves travel through air at the velocity of light ($186,000$ miles per second or $3 \times 10^8$ meters per second). In 1888, a German physicist, Heinrich Rudolph Hertz, through experimentation with lower-frequency electromagnetic waves (microwaves), substantiated Maxwell's predictions and equations. In the mid 1800s, Professor Gustav Robert Kirchhoff introduced a series of laws of voltages and currents that find application at every level and area of this field. In 1895, another German physicist, Wilhelm Rontgen, discovered electromagnetic waves of high frequency, commonly called X rays today.
By the end of the 1800s, a significant number of the fundamental equations, laws, and relationships had been established, and various fields of study, including electronics, power generation, and calculating equipment, started to develop in earnest.

The Age of Electronics

The true beginning of the electronics era is open to debate and is sometimes attributed to efforts by early scientists in applying potentials across evacuated glass envelopes. However, many trace the beginning to Thomas Edison, who added a metallic electrode to the vacuum of the tube and discovered that a current was established between the metal electrode and the filament when a positive voltage was applied to the metal electrode. The phenomenon, demonstrated in 1883, was referred to as the Edison effect. In the period to follow, the transmission of radio waves and the development of the radio received widespread attention. In 1887, Heinrich Hertz, in his efforts to verify Maxwell's equations, transmitted radio waves for the first time in his laboratory. In 1896, an Italian scientist, Guglielmo Marconi (often called the father of the radio), demonstrated that telegraph signals could be sent through the air over long distances (2.5 kilometers) using a grounded antenna. In the same year, Aleksandr Popov sent what might have been the first radio message some 300 yards. The message was the name "Heinrich Hertz" in respect for Hertz's earlier contributions. In 1901, Marconi established radio communication across the Atlantic.
In 1904, John Ambrose Fleming expanded on the efforts of Edison to develop the first diode, commonly called Fleming's valve actually the first of the electronic devices. The device had a profound impact on the design of detectors in the receiving section of radios. In 1906, Lee De Forest added a third element to the vacuum structure and created the first amplifier, the triode. Shortly thereafter, in 1912, Edwin Armstrong built the first regenerative circuit to improve receiver capabilities and then used the same contribution to develop the first nonmechanical oscillator.
By 1915 radio signals were being transmitted across the United States, and in 1918 Armstrong applied for a patent for the super heterodyne circuit employed in virtually every television and radio to permit amplification at one frequency rather than at the full range of incoming signals. The major components of the modern-day radio were now in place, and sales in radios grew from a few million dollars in the early 1920s to over $1 billion by the 1930s. The 1930s were truly the golden years of radio, with a wide range of productions for the listening audience.
The 1930s were also the true beginnings of the television era, although development on the picture tube began in earlier years with Paul Nipkow and his electrical telescope in 1884 and John Baird and his long list of successes, including the transmission of television pictures over telephone lines in 1927 and over radio waves in 1928, and simultaneous transmission of pictures and sound in 1930. In 1932, NBC installed the first commercial television antenna on top of the Empire State Building in New York City, and RCA began regular broadcasting in 1939. The war slowed development and sales, but in the mid 1940s the number of sets grew from a few thousand to a few million. Color television became popular in the early 1960s.
The earliest computer system can be traced back to Blaise Pascal in 1642 with his mechanical machine for adding and subtracting numbers. In 1673 Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz used the Leibniz wheel to add multiplication and division to the range of operations, and in 1823 Charles Babbage developed the difference engine to add the mathematical operations of sine, cosine, logs, and several others. In the years to follow, improvements were made, but the system remained primarily mechanical until the 1930s when electromechanical systems using components such as relays were introduced. It was not until the 1940s that totally electronic systems became the new wave. It is interesting to note that, even though IBM was formed in 1924, it did not enter the computer industry until 1937. An entirely electronic system known as ENIAC was dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. It contained $18,000$ tubes and weighed $30$ tons but was several times faster than most electromechanical systems. Although other vacuum tube systems were built, it was not until the birth of the solid-state era that computer systems experienced a major change in size, speed, and capability.

The Solid-State Era

In 1947, physicists William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter H. Brattain of Bell Telephone Laboratories demonstrated the point-contact transistor, an amplifier constructed entirely of solid-state materials with no requirement for a vacuum, glass envelope, or heater voltage for the filament. Although reluctant at first due to the vast amount of material available on the design, analysis, and synthesis of tube networks, the industry eventually accepted this new technology as the wave of the future. In 1958 the first integrated circuit (IC) was developed at Texas Instruments, and in 1961 the first commercial integrated circuit was manufactured by the Fairchild Corporation. It is impossible to review properly the entire history of the electrical/electronics field in a few pages. The effort here, both through the discussion and the time graphs was to reveal the amazing progress of this field in the last 50 years. The growth appears to be truly exponential since the early 1900s, raising the interesting question, Where do we go from here? The time chart suggests that the next few decades will probably contain many important innovative contributions that may cause an even faster growth curve than we are now experiencing.

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