Invention of the Electric Motor

Benjamin Franklin invented a type of electric motor in the 1740s.

We use electric motors regularly in numerous appliances and industrial applications, but have we ever thought of where they have come from? Prussian inventor Moritz von Jacobi created one of the first proper electric motors in 1834, and his second design was even powerful enough to propel a boat with over a dozen people in it. That same years, American blacksmith Thomas Davenport himself created a battery powered electric motor.

However other less practically useful attempts at making electric motors were engaged in by Benjamin Franklin as early as the 1740s (years before James Watts invented his steam engine). A huge step in the development of the modern electric motor was made in 1822 by Englishman Peter Barlow with his creation of Barlow’s Wheel. Mercury was used in Barlow’s Wheel, as it was used in the thermometers of the day.

The electric motor was refined over the years by many engineers and inventors, and no one individual can be completely credited with inventing the electric motor. Like many other human achievements, change was incremental. Alternating current, which had a huge impact on the development of electricity, was not widely introduced until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The AC induction motor was invented by Nikola Tesla in 1887 (although Galileo Ferraris also created a working model of one in 1885).

Without the modern electric motor, everything from your washing machine to pool pumps would not function. We owe a great debt to the minds who have improved upon our knowledge and practically applied it to solve our problems.

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