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Electricity seems to have become known and adapted widespread in the early 19th century. With people such as Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison it eventually entered our daily lives as a source of light and warmth.

Q: When/What was the first documented mention of mechanically generated electricity?

By mechanically I mean electricity generated through mechanical action (e.g. a wheel turning).


This question is asking about cases where the generated electricity has furthermore been used to power any contraption with, at least, an apparent use e.g.:

  • powering a spark-gap transmitter to make electricity visible
    -> cool
  • creating a charge that eventually unloads itself through touch or something like that
    -> not cool

closed as unclear what you're asking by Mark C. Wallace, KillingTime, KorvinStarmast, Pieter Geerkens, John Dallman Nov 22 '16 at 20:36

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    If you count static electricity, from the time of the old Greeks. – SJuan76 Nov 22 '16 at 9:24
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    Given the revision in the above comment, it would seem that wikipedia has the answer. I.e. The Woolrich Electrical Generator...is the earliest electrical generator used in an industrial process – Steve Bird Nov 22 '16 at 11:46
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    @SteveBird well, why not add it as an answer then..? – dot_Sp0T Nov 22 '16 at 11:55
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    @dot_Sp0T I didn't add it as an answer because I couldn't do a better job than the wikipedia page and the policy here is to not simply duplicate existing online sources. (see: Questions answered by a simple Google search or to be found in a Wikipedia page). – Steve Bird Nov 22 '16 at 12:18
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    I'd agree that you definitely need to clarify what the question is. The title asks for "first documented mention of mechanically generated electricity", the body of the question then says "used to power any contraption with, at least, an apparent use" with an example that would "make electricity visible". Then in a comment it's "used to power something that had a use other than experimenting", which rules out most of Faraday's work. – KillingTime Nov 22 '16 at 15:11
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If you mean electromagnetic generator, it was first designed by Faraday (see Wikipedia, "Electric generator") and it is called the Faraday disk.

But strictly speaking, you can "mechanically generate electricity" in another way: by rubbing a piece of glass or another substance. This is known since antiquity. A machine with wheels, called friction generator was invented by Otto von Guericke in 1663. See Wikipedia "Electrostatic generator".

  • I think that Faraday's work was significant because it produced current that could be transmitted and used for work; I am not positive but I don't static electricity could be. Prior to Faraday, electricity for experimentation came from batteries and so Faraday's work was hugely important. – Jeff Nov 23 '16 at 23:57
  • Current from a battery also can be transmitted and used to do work. – Alex Nov 24 '16 at 3:45
  • Yes, from a battery but I think static electricity can't be used to make an electromagnet or at least in a practical way. Mechanically generated electricity that could generated in a predictable and over an arbitrarily long period was key to advances in other areas of electrical research. – Jeff Nov 24 '16 at 4:31

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