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Phenomenon associated with stationary or moving electric charges. The word comes from the Greek elektron (amber); the Greeks discovered that amber rubbed with fur attracted light objects such as feathers. Such effects due to stationary charges, or static electricity, were the first electrical phenomena to be studied. Not until the early 19th century were static electricity and electric current shown to be aspects of the same phenomenon. The discovery of the electron, which carries a charge designated as negative, showed that the various manifestations of electricity are the result of the accumulation or motion of numbers of electrons. The invention of the incandescent lightbulb (1879) and the construction of the first central power station (1881) by Thomas Alva Edison led to the rapid introduction of electric power into factories and homes. See alsoJames Clerk Maxwell.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on electricity, visit Britannica.com.