Timeline of the electric motor

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Electric motors have a long history going back to the early 19th century.

19th century[edit]

Date, Name Electric Motor Chronology Selected Patents
1820, Hans Christian Ørsted Danish, physicist and chemist; first to note a compass needle deflected from magnetic north when an electric current from a battery was switched on and off, confirming a direct relationship between electricity and magnetism.[1][2][3][4]
1820, André-Marie Ampère French, physicist; invented the solenoid.[1][4]
1821 Michael Faraday British, scientist; showed continuous 'electromagnetic rotation' resulted by suspending a magnetic wire in an electric field;[1][2][3][4]
1822, Peter Barlow British, physicist; invented Barlow's wheel, the first device ever powered by electromagnetism.[1][3][4][5]
1824, François Arago French, physicist; showed a rotating copper disk produced rotation in a magnetic needle suspended above it, which Faraday later attributed to induction phenomena.[4][6][7]
1828, Ányos Jedlik Hungarian, physicist and unsung father of the dynamo and electric motor; invented the first commutated rotary electromechanical machine with electromagnets.[1][3]
1831 Michael Faraday British, scientist; discovered and investigated induction law in terms of electric current generation in a varying magnetic field.[1][3][4][8]
1831, Joseph Henry American, physicist; Created a mechanical rocker, which he however describes as a philosophical toy.[1][4][8]
1825-1833 William Sturgeon British, scientist; 1825 - invented the electro-magnet; 1833 - built first commutated rotating electric machine that was demonstrated in London.[1]
1832-33, Hippolyte Pixii French, instrument maker, built the first AC generating apparatus out of a rotation; and, the following year, an oscillating DC generator.[1][3][4][9]
1833, Joseph Saxton American, inventor; demonstrated an magneto-electric machine before the British Association for the Advancement of Science.[8]
1833, Heinrich Friedrich Emil Lenz German; formulated the law of reversibility of generators and motors.[1][2][4]
1837, Thomas Davenport American, blacksmith-inventor; obtained first US electric motor patent.[1][3][5][8] US 132
1838, Solomon Stimpson American; built a 12-pole electric motor with segmental commutator.[5][8][10] US 910
1834-39, Moritz von Jacobi Russian, engineer and physicist; built a 15 watt motor in 1834 submitted to the Academy of Sciences in Paris with detailes published in 1835; demonstrated first use of electric motor to propel a boat; first real useful rotary electrical motor.[1][3][4][8][10]
1840, Truman Cook American; built electric motor with a PM armature.[8][10] US 1735
1837-42, Robert Davidson Scottish, inventor; developed electric motors for a lathe and a locomotive.[1][3][8][10]
1845, Paul-Gustav Froment French, engineer and instrument maker; first of various motors; first motor translated linear "electromagnetic piston's" energy to wheel's rotary motion. See also Mouse mill motor.[4][8][10][11]
1856, Werner Siemens German, industrialist; invented generator with a double-T armature and slots windings.[1][4]
1861-64, James Clark Maxwell British, scientist; reduced electromagnetism knowledge in four key equations.[1][3][4]
1871-73, Zénobe Théophile Gramme Belgium, engineer; developed the anchor ring motor which solved the double-T armature pulsating DC problem; at Vienna exhibition, demonstrated to great effect ability to transmit between generator and motor 1 km apart.[1][4]
1879, Walter Baily British; based on Arago's rotations, by manual switching on and off, developed the first primitive commutatorless induction motor.[2][7]
1885, Galileo Ferraris Italian, physicist and engineer; invented the first AC commutatorless induction motor using two-phase AC windings in space quadrature. Delivered a paper on it in April 1888.[1][2][7][12]
1886-89, Nikola Tesla Serbian-American, engineer and inventor; having worked independently from Ferraris, presented a paper in May, 1888 to AIEE describing three patented two-phase four-stator-pole motor types: one with a four-pole rotor forming a non-self-starting reluctance motor, another with a wound rotor forming a self-starting induction motor, and the third a true synchronous motor with separately-excited DC supply to rotor winding. This led to Westinghouse acquiring exclusive rights to him patents and retain him as a consultant for a short time to work on development of these motors.[1][2][3][4][7] US 0,381,968
US 0,381,969
US 0,382,279
US 0,382,280
1886, Frank Julian Sprague American, industrialist; development of new constant-speed DC motor, which allowed the Sprague company to issue the world's "first important industrial electric motor catalogue".[13]
1889-90, Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky Russian, engineer and inventor; invented the first cage and wound rotor versions of the three-phase induction motor that are still widely in use today.[1][2][3][4][7]

20th Century[edit]

Date, Name Electric Motor Chronology Selected Patents
1905, Alfred Zehden A feasible linear induction motor described in patent form for driving trains or lifts. U.S. Patent 782,312
1935, Kemper Built a working linear induction motor
1945-49, Laithwaite First full-size working model of linear induction motor


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Doppelbauer, Martin. "A short history of electric motors, 1800-1893". Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Doppelbauer" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Drury, Bill (2001). Control Techniques Drives and Controls Handbook. Institution of Electrical Engineers. p. xiv. ISBN 0-85296-793-4. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Electropeadia. "Battery and Energy Technologies, Technology and Applications Timeline". 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Multon, Bernard (June 1995). "Historique des Machines Électromagnétiques et Plus Particulièrement des Machines à Réluctance Variable" (PDF). Revue 3E (in French). I (3): 3–8. 
  5. ^ a b c Martin, Thomas Commerford; Wetzler, Joseph (1891). The Electric Motor and Its Applications, with an Appendix on 'The Development of the Electric Motor Since 1888' by Louis Bell (3rd ed.). The W.J. Johnston Company, Limited. p. 315 pages. 
  6. ^ "Francois Arago". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Vučković, Vladan (November 2006). "Interpretation of a Discovery" (PDF). The Serbian Journal of Electrical Engineers. 3 (2). Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Michalowicz, Joseph C. (Jan 1948). "Origin of the Electric Motor". Trans. of the AIEE. 67 (2): 1288–1292. doi:10.1109/T-AIEE.1948.5059817. 
  9. ^ King, H. James (April 1833). "Paper 30: Development of Electrical Technology in the 19th Century: III" (PDF). American Journal of Science, 24: 146; Bulletin 228: Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, p. 349. p. fig. 21 Pixii magneto generator, without commutator. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Boursin, Philippe. "Histoire de la Voiture Électrique". 
  11. ^ Kenyon College Physics Dept. "Froment motors". 
  12. ^ Baily, Walter (June 28, 1879). "A Mode of Producing Arago's Rotation". Philosophical magazine: A journal of theoretical, experimental and applied physics. Taylor & Francis. 
  13. ^ Sprague, Frank J. (May 1934). "Digging in the "Mines of the Motors"". Trans. of AIEE. 53 (5): 695–706. doi:10.1109/T-AIEE.1934.5056690.