What was the first invention that required electricity?

My son asked this last night at dinner. My wife and I gave it our best guess saying it might be the incandescant lightbulb, but we weren’t really sure. We did a thorough internet search last night yielding nothing, though there were lots of references to the invention of the lightbulb but those seemed to indicate that there were other things around that required electricity.

So I bring it here to the Doper community. What was the first invention that required electricty for it to work properly?

I think it might have been electroplating in 1805.

Some evidence suggests that electroplating was done with primitive batteries over 2000 years ago in what is now Iraq.

The Leyden jar (1745) predates this by 60 years.

The facsimile telegraph was invented in 1842. Electricity was used to make marks on chemically treated paper at the receiving station.

True, but those were mainly an experimental curiosity. They weren’t another invention that “required” electricity per the OP. Plus, ancient electroplating has some fairly good evidence to support it.

I disagree. Without electricity, the Leyden jar is pointless. And the OP did not specify what he he intended by the term “requires”.

Maybe not strictly what the OP meant, but lightning rods were invented in 1752, according to the cite.

Point taken. :slight_smile:

I am specifically talking about the first device that requires electricty to perform a useful task.

According to Wikipedia, the ancient battery doesn’t have enough evidence to support that it was specifically used for electroplating.

It also suggests that the Telegraph was the first, but it doesn’t specifically say it either.

The first practical machine that used electricity was probably the telegraph circa 1840-50 - but note that electric lights and motors had been developed before then but not commercial as they weren’t good enough

I think static electricity would predate the Leyden jar by quite a bit. I seem to recall the Greeks knew about it, though I’m not sure if they did anything with it.

This page says that Guericke used static electricity in a number of experiments. (Though with only 5 minutes of searching, I can’t say if he was ‘first’ at that.)

That would be ~1663 btw.

What about the electroplating in 1805 that I linked too?

The electric telegraph was surely the first electric device that hit really big, being used on a huge scale. Edison’s light bulb was the first electric invention that made sense to use for average households and drove forward the installation of energy grids to private homes. For many decades afterwards, the electricity bill was widely referred to as the light bill.

I’ve got Electroplating in 1805.
Do I hear anything in the 1790’s?
1790’s going once…
[/Auctioneer] :smiley:


Wasn’t there some useful electrical item used in the 1700’s?

In some way one could argue that the lightning rod, invented in 1752 by Benjamin Franklin, is an electric device. But only in some way, as it’s more about getting rid of undesirable electricity than about using electricity as an energy source.

Ben Franklin and other early experimenters made several toys that worked from the charges generated by static electricity generators. I’ve seen some of these in demonstrations (and A.D. Moore describes some of them in his book Electrostatics). They’re not terrifically useful devices, but they do work only with the electricity you generate. And they predate the beginning of the 19th century.

Here’s a picture showing some such devices. Note that Franklin invented his before 1800:


Raises Hand:


Here’s an electrostatic motor invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1748.

I found this web page that lists quite a few electrostatic devices from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of them has the be the earliest.