# How electricity discovered before discovery of electron?

I was reading a wiki article moments ago about discovery of electron, I suddenly remembered a question which my friend asked yesterday that how electricity discovered before discovery of electron (negative charge).

I went on some other websites including wiki and got that people knew somewhat what is negative charge and what is electricity (to a very very small extent). But when we come to a time which is not more than 600 years ago the changes can be observed.

Wiki article on electron says that "In the early 1700s, Francis Hauksbee and French chemist Charles François de Fay independently discovered what they believed were two kinds of frictional electricity—one generated from rubbing glass, the other from rubbing resin. From this, Du Fay theorized that electricity consists of two electrical fluids, vitreous and resinous, that are separated by friction, and that neutralize each other when combined.American scientist Ebenezer Kinnersley later also independently reached the same conclusion. A decade later Benjamin Franklin proposed that electricity was not from different types of electrical fluid, but a single electrical fluid showing an excess (+) or deficit (-)."

The same article further says that Between 1838 and 1851, British natural philosopher Richard Laming developed the idea that an atom is composed of a core of matter surrounded by subatomic particles that had unit electric charges.

Further data compiled by other resources also depict the same difference in time(I m not including further researches as this question is about history).

Since i have a very little knowledge of electricity, and I always heard people relating these two and saying that electricity originate from knowledge of charge.

So I mm hoping for help.

I am going to take your question literally as regards "discovered", not because I want to be pedantic, but because the effects of electrostatics must have started any human with curiosity wondering about nature. In other words, seeing a lighting strike hitting a tree and hearing the thunder was possibly one of earliest of the Earth's physical phenomena that got humans thinking beyond themselves.

I think you have to make an important distinction here. Electrostatics was known about / discovered since since the first caveman (or cavewomen) put on a fur from an animal, and later saw sparks in their cave, or saw lighting.

I use these examples because our knowledge of electrostatics stayed at much the caveman level, until, as the other answers also say, Thales of Miletus, investigated the effect, around 500 BCE. Mostly, the effect on daily life was due to the triboelectric effect.

SOURCE: Wikipedia Electrostatics

The triboelectric effect is a type of contact electrification in which certain materials become electrically charged when they are brought into contact with a different material and then separated. One of the materials acquires a positive charge, and the other acquires an equal negative charge. The polarity and strength of the charges produced differ according to the materials, surface roughness, temperature, strain, and other properties. Amber, for example, can acquire an electric charge by friction with a material like wool. This property, first recorded by Thales of Miletus, was the first electrical phenomenon investigated by humans. Other examples of materials that can acquire a significant charge when rubbed together include glass rubbed with silk, and hard rubber rubbed with fur.

But although predictions could be made, (Coulomb's Law, Gauss's Law) etc, it was not until Faraday and Maxwell managed to link electricity and magnetic effects together than that substantial progress on the causes of electricity, which I would define here as the flow of current, especially the sustained controlled flow, was made.

I would concentrate on the year 1832, when Michael Faraday published the results of his experiments. You have to remember, that up to and beyond the 1900's, the atomic nature of matter was not accepted by many eminent physicists, including Max Planck. It was the experiments of Rutherford and others that started to convince mainstream physics of the existence and possible structure of an atom composed of an atomic nucleus with an (arbitrary assignment of positive charge), and an electron, taken as having negative charge.

In 1897, the electron itself was discovered:

SOURCE Nobelprize.org

Towards the end of the 19th century Joseph J.Thomson (1856-1940) was studying electric discharges at the well-known Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge, England. Several people had been studying the intriguing effects in electric discharge tubes before him. Spectacular glows could be observed when a high voltage was applied in a gas volume at low pressure. It was known that the discharge and the glow in the gas were due to something coming from the cathode, the negative pole of the applied high voltage. Thomson made a series of experiments to study the properties of the rays coming from the cathode. He observed that the cathode rays were deflected by both electric and magnetic fields - they were obviously electrically charged. By carefully measuring how the cathode rays were deflected by electric and magnetic fields, Thomson was able to determine the ratio between the electric charge (e) and the mass (m) of the rays. Thomson's result was $e/m = 1.8 10^-{11}$ coulombs/kg.

The discovery of electricity does not mean the discovery of what constituted it, but rather electricity itself. Earlier, people did not know what caused electricity, but rather they know there exists something that is called then as electricity.

Only the later research on it proved that electricity was because of the flow of electrons.

We can relate this to the proposals of the atom by philosophers like Democritus, scientists like Newton, Dalton etc. who knew something such as the atom should exist, but only later research proved the existence of even more fundamental particles in the universe.

First informations regarding electromagnetic phenomena were from around the century VI B.C. when Tales of Milet discovered that amber can attract small objects after they were rubbed.

In II A.D. the first compass was built in China; they discovered that magnetite (iron oxide) attracts small pieces of iron.

In 1640 Gilbert discovers the phenomena of attraction and repulsion between the poles of an magnet, the electrification effect and the induced magnetism.

Then there's Charles de Coulomb who expressed the Coulomb force (electrostatic force F=kqQ/r2), Andre-Marie Ampere who studied the electric current [flow] ( I=dQ/dt ), Georg Simon Ohm with Ohm's law regarding resistivity ( R=V/I ), Gustav Kirchhoff with Kirchhoff's current law, Michael Faraday with with the capacitance, Anastasio Volta with the invention of battery, Benjamin Franklin also with some theories, Maxwell with his well know Maxwell's equations.

And then there are the lot's of people that did actually discovered the electron ... ( Johann Wilhelm Hittorf, Eugen Goldstein, Hendrik Lorentz, Thomson, Townsend, Wilson, George F. Fitzgerald, Henri Becquerel , Rutherford ... and many others)

It would be pretty amazing to describe a particle responsible for a force without being familiar with that force. Electricity has been observed casually for thousands of years, but only in the last couple hundred have we had the tools and methods to figure out how it works.

But I don't think that's really what you want. I think you want "why did it take 200 years to get the charge carrier direction right" The answer to that is an unlucky arbitrary assignment. (xkcd)

The carrier was too small and the effects too fast to be observed when it was first studied. And since it was equalizing it didn't really matter anyway. It took a long time to learn enough about electricity to design the tools good enough to make tests for the charge of the charge carrier.

Electrical phenomena were already known by the old Greeks. They knew that rubbing a piece of amber made it attract small objects.

The name "electricity" is actually derived from the old Greek name "electron", which means amber.