Talk:History of electromagnetic theory

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Untitled[edit]

This is a rather disappointing page given how much waffle and crap there is written about political and subjective topics. This is such an important topic for the amount which current society relies on electricity.

I know that I'm just being a whinger and should write something myself, but I don't have the time.

Can someone else please do it?DrBob127 03:47, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

I got quite a bit of info from this page dog.—Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.162.242.42 (talkcontribs) 23:58 25 October 2006

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 09:54, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

History of Static Electricity[edit]

What would a medievil person do when they were shocked by static electricity? 69.220.2.188 (talk) 06:40, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

They would say "Ouch"218.186.12.9 (talk) 09:42, 8 August 2008 (UTC)


Who invented the word "electromagnetism"?[edit]

At the end of the section: Middle Ages and the Renaissance there's the assertion:

The first usage of the word electricity is ascribed to Sir Thomas Browne in his 1646 work, Pseudodoxia Epidemica.

Since this is a history of electromagnetism, not just electricity (or mainly electricity) I've felt the need to assert Athanasius Kircher's priority on the word "electromagnetism" itself.

Some people feel that Kircher's coining of the word, in his book Magnes (The Magnet), was a pure accident, since the chapter in which it occurs deals mainly with the attractive force of amber, so he was using it to mean "electrostatic attraction". I've tried to make it clear though that Kircher seriously goes into the idea of unifying magnetic and electrostatic force, chewing over Gilbert's ideas on the topic.

I was also tempted to point out that Kircher proposed a workable (?) scheme for generating electromagnetic waves. But I didn't want to get in an argument over whether this was "original research". The Findlen refs show it isn't my idea. But to try to defend the workability of the scheme would almost certainly embroil me in the charge of "original research", which I gather can be a euphemism for "baloney". So not without a twinge of regret I've omitted a defence of Kircher's proposal, except an implied one that the reason it wouldn't have worked boils down to the physical magnitudes being too small (of Planck's Constant, as it happens), not yet-another bizarre misconception by Kircher. In other words his machina magnetica would only have generated a signal too weak to detect at a useful distance, not that it couldn't possibly have worked. Had the figures been in Kircher's favour, wireless communication might have emerged 250 years earlier than it did, with profound impact on the course of world history.

But to say something like that falls into Kircher's "error". The trouble with Fr Kircher was that he couldn't resist embellishing a perfectly sound and far-reaching idea with all the high-baroque speculation that occurred to him. The emerging class of physicists, then called natural philosophers (especially Descartes) quickly realised that sort of thing got you a bad reputation, and learned to be more cautious in their conjectures, not to say their claims.

Quacksalber (talk) 18:43, 31 August 2013 (UTC)

Furture[edit]

The practical application of electricity will go on apace. It is an every day saying of laymen that electricity is as yet in its infancy. This remark causes technical men to smile, for "electricity" is already a most prodigious infant. But in the sense that we may only be on the threshold of the possible utilizations of this most wonderful of nature's agents, the remark is perhaps true. Predictions that were with diffidence made in the closing decade of last century to the effect that within 100 years of that time people would probably speak to one another without artificial means of communication; that wires would be laid along every street and knocked into every house as gas pipes were then, for lighting and power purposes, have been for a decade facts accomplished. What the next 120 years shall bring forth with regard to the applications of electricity none can tell. One hundred and twenty years ago it would have been difficult to find one steam railroad engineer willing to admit that application of electric traction to steam railroads was a possibility even though it was.

Other means, now unknown, of developing electricity may be wrested from nature's storehouse. Indeed in view of the past progress of electricity, and especially in view of its marvelous progress in the last two centuries, theoretically and practically, it required no great exercise of the imagination to conceive that the time was not too distant when the universal artificial source of the world's heat, light and power, is electricity, and that what is now only surmise as to the sameness of electricity and matter has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. Not only has wireless been more perfected and "seeing by electricity" to a distance been perfected, but many other accomplishments can be practically accomplished. Indeed, it is not even beyond the possibilities that the transference of thought directly from brain to brain with the space-time as the medium — the suggestion of which is now regarded as the vagrant of a disordered imagination — may then also be realized. In short our successors of 125 or 130 years hence may wonder at our obtuseness in not perceiving the obviousness of things which to them may then be self-evident, virtually as we now marvel at the simplicity of our cleverest ancestors in so long failing to recognize the identity of frictional, animal, and voltaic electricity, or the more simple fact that the wind, by them regarded as a phenomenon, is merely air in motion.


Updated from the The Encyclopedia Americana; a library of universal knowledge. (1918). New York: Encyclopedia Americana Corp.

J. D. Redding 02:28, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

Paragraph on pre-historic man[edit]

too much unattributed text and sources too old to be considered valid today

Although there are no copyright issues, quite a bit of this (including footnotes 12 and 13) are directly copied from very old books, specifically Park Benjamin's 1898 A History of Electricity with no indication that they are actually quotations. Additionally, I think using speculation from a book over a century old is inappropriate in a 21st century encyclopedia article, and that the book does not qualify as a RS for the article (but would be for an article on 19th century thought). Doug Weller (talk) 13:50, 26 August 2008 (UTC) I Public Domain text. J. D. Redding 15:09, 26 August 2008 (UTC) (PS., this is a history article ... it is appropriate in a encyclopedia history article)

That the text is in the public domain is not in dispute: see the first sentence of Doug Weller's main paragraph. That it is appropriate here is. As Doug has said, discussion on 19th century thought might be an appropriate venue, but it should be properly attributed, public domain or not, and its historical context made clear. Copying hundred-year old (and older) script here verbatim makes for a hundred-year old article, and is very poor scholarship. Are, you for example, able to identify those for whom "It is an every day saying... that electricity is as yet in its infancy"? Is electricity still in its infancy? Your sources are not reliable for the purposes to which you are putting them. — BillC talk 01:47, 27 August 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Bill, you put my points better than I did. Doug Weller (talk) 13:40, 27 August 2008 (UTC)
Language should be made gender neutral as per wiki manual of style.

Thales - needs rewriting[edit]

At the moment this reads:
According to Thales of Miletus, writing at around 600 BC, noted that a form of electricity was known to the Ancient Greeks would cause a particular attraction between the two. Rubbing fur on various substances, such as amber, would cause a particular attraction between the two, although he never understood why.[16] Thales wrote on various substances, such as amber, would cause effects now known as static electricity. The Greeks noted that the amber buttons could attract light objects such as hair and that if they rubbed the amber for long enough they could even get a spark to jump. During this time in alchemy and natural philosophy, the existence of a medium of the æther, a space-filling substance or field, thought to exist.

Because in this form it makes no sense -- the first sentence mentions 'attraction between the two' and we don't know what 'two' is, the 3rd sentence makes no sense either, I went back to an earlier version, dropping the 'aether' bit which seemed irrelevant. My version(which also had a reference) was:
Thales of Miletus in the 6th century BC wrote that The Greeks noted that the amber buttons could attract light objects such as hair and that if they rubbed the amber for long enough they could even get a spark to jump.

This edit (and my removal of the unattributed 19th century speculation), although they had detailed edit summaries explaining why I made them, were reverted by Reddi with only the comment 'restored some information', ie no explanation. I'm not the only editor Reddi has reverted with no explanation. Doug Weller (talk) 14:01, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

Hmm. Tried to work that in. J. D. Redding 15:13, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

Tesla with his own section?[edit]

Tesla had his own section in this article. That's a bit novel and weird. We don't give Volta, Gauss, Coulomb, Ampere, Henry, Faraday, Weber, Lenz, Lorentz, Einstein, etc. their own sections but we give Tesla his own section? What's the possible rationale? Answer: none. I merged the section with the next section. ScienceApologist (talk) 18:07, 28 August 2008 (UTC)

Heaviside The really weird thing is that Oliver Heaviside seems to be completely missing. Ivor Catt —Preceding unsigned comment added by 91.114.58.30 (talk) 17:44, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

All those people do need their own sections. This article is terribly hard to navigate. --Balrore (talk) 10:18, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Electromagnetic world view[edit]

To describe the works of Lorentz and Poincaré and others before the rise of Albert Einstein's special relativity, I've included a new section on that topic in "20th century". Also some references to Miller, Pais, Darrigol, Katzir, Janssen, Galison are included in "References". --D.H (talk) 12:24, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Why Romagnosi has not been mentioned?[edit]

The evidence that Romagnosi actually was the first one to realize a relationship between electricity and magnetism (nearly 20 years before Oersted)is nowadays consolidated and historically confirmed. The fact that the article not only assign a full bodied paragraph to the italian scientist as he should deserve but it even never mention his name it's quite unfair and questionable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Magnagr (talkcontribs) 16:22, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Here's a possible source [1] Dougweller (talk) 17:12, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Ellicott[edit]

From the article, Feb. 5, 2010, section on the "Leyden jar":

In 1741, Ellicott "proposed to measure the strength of electrification by its power to raise a weight in one scale of a balance while the other was held over the electrified body and pulled to it by its attractive power".

This whole paragraph is sourced to an unidentified place in the Encyclopedia Americana of 1918. This Ellicott in all likelihood was John Ellicott, F.R.S. However, I cannot find any confirmation of him having made such a proposal. I can only find a letter from an anonymous addressed to John Ellicott, in which the unknown author proposed such a method in 1746. See "A Letter from - to Mr. John Ellicot, F. R. S. of Weighing the Strength of Electrical Effluvia", in Phil. Trans. 1746 44:96-99.

BTW, all the Americana references should be improved, giving the precise entry, if possible with a link to the containing volume at archive.org, from which the fact was taken. Lupo 08:35, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

1st, it's not from archive.org. 2nd, it's public domain information, right? 3rd, improved references are needed. Sincerely, --J. D. Redding 09:37, 14 December 2010 (UTC) [ps., this thread is neat though =-]
It's not a question of whether the source is PD or not, but a question of traceability. Archive.org happens to host the PD Americana, so why not use it for direct on-line sourcing? That was all I was suggesting. Lupo 21:56, 15 December 2010 (UTC)
Ok, found and linked the entry in the EA. The author sources this Ellicott phrase to Carpue, probably Joseph Constantine Carpue, presumably his "An Introduction to Electricity and Galvanism..." of 1803. Lupo 08:58, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

This source (Bibliographical History of Electricity and Magnetism By Paul Fleury Mottelay) identifies the person who suggested the counter weight means of strength testing as John Ellicott of Chester, but it says that this was done in 1746 not 1741. Sxoa (talk) 11:42, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Yes, but Mottelay sources his claim to Phil. Trans. 1746 vol XLIV, p. 96, which is the source I've also identified above. However, that source is a letter to John Ellicott, not one by him. So he didn't suggest that; it was suggested to him. Lupo 12:36, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
P.S.: as to the date, the Philosophical Transactions state it was read on March 6, 1746 (New Style; 1745 Old Style). 1741 seems to be simply incorrect. Lupo 16:05, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
While he does cite the source mentioned above he also cites a number of other sources. There's no inline citations so its not clear (to me at least) what is sourced to what specifically. I don't have a subscription to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London so I can't look at the letter but from the title "A Letter from - to Mr. John Ellicot, F. R. S. of Weighing the Strength of Electrical Effluvia" it's not clear whether the unnamed author is commenting on John Ellicott's experiments or is suggesting them to him (I imagine this is fairly clear upon reading the actual document). I also haven't seen the other sources Mottelay cites under his description of Ellicott which may or may not add to the matter.Sxoa (talk) 17:49, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
P.S. It seems like that would be fairly gross error on Motellay's part if he claims that Ellicott conducted the experiment and then cited a letter that says Ellicott did not in fact do so (if that's what the letter says, as I have said before I'm unable to access its contents).Sxoa (talk) 17:51, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
It is a letter, in which the unnamed author does suggest that method. If you want, I can send you the document. Lupo 20:10, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
As long as you've read it and confirmed it that's fine with me. Still weird about Motellay though; I wonder what the other sources have to say? Regardless at this point the question now becomes how to edit the actual article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Sxoa (talkcontribs) 16:10, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Some text copied to 1800–1809[edit]

Hi, folks! A while back, I copied some text from this article over to 1800-1809. This isn't a field that I have expertise in, so further editing of the work in context from other editors here would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! -- RobLa (talk) 02:00, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

Henry was first in his use of the transformer principle.[edit]

What exactly does this mean? Was Henry the first to build a transformer or does this just refer to the concept of self-inductance?

Number of Electrons in the hydrogen and oxygen atoms[edit]

In the 'End of the Century' Section, the number of electrons given for hydrogen and oxygen are 700 and 11200, respectively. This seems absurd, but perhaps I am missing something.

I will correct the numbers to 1 and 8, with apologies to anyone whose chemistry is better than mine.

--Cladist (talk) 11:05, 12 May 2011 (UTC)

Also, what does "one of a day" mean? --Cladist (talk) 11:11, 12 May 2011 (UTC)

Also, also, why is the sentence about 'protyles' written as if it were a modern theory? This whole paragraph is weird. --Cladist (talk) 11:15, 12 May 2011 (UTC)

I have removed that paragraph in its entirety. It appears to have been copy-and-pasted verbatim from an out of copyright edition of Encyclopedia Americana from the turn of the last century. As such, it reflected contemporary thought, as well as being written in the ponderous language of that time. —BillC talk 16:39, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

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Sourced / Relevant / Encyclopedic material[edit]

Awful lot of material referenced to 100 year old sources, some are simply primary sourced. I have removed most of the more blatant and cited others, and cleaned up Tesla name dropping, needs more cleanup. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 16:05, 6 October 2013 (UTC)

The sources are tertiary and public domain. Please don't edit with a point [eg., "cleaned up Tesla"] --J. D. Redding 15:04, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia requires secondary sources, which can be checked by tertiary. Both have to be fairly reliable sources. A claim diff of Tesla being the "third" person behind electromagnetic theory needs some very reliable sourcing. The 95 year old tertiary source you copied and pasted verbatim into the article is a)not a secondary source, b) at 95 years old is not a very reliable source re:"present scholarly consensus", and c) does not support the claim being made, re: the source is about "high frequency (current)" and you skewed it to "electromagnetic frequency (current)". Tesla simple does not come up as the third person behind electromagnetic theory in reliable sources. History of Wireless By T. K. Sarkar, Robert Mailloux, Arthur A. Oliner, M. Salazar-Palma, Dipak L. page 227 gives Fitzgerald, Lodge, and Heaviside as the key players in confirming Maxwell. In that same 577 page book there are some 20 pages on Tesla with the quote (page 270) "Tesla did not belong to the group of great theoreticians who develop new frontier of science".
Claim "Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power (AC) systems" is sourced to a Tesla specific source and two Wikipedia articles, far from reliable sourcing. Alternating current has a long history section listing dozens of engineers who "formed the basis" of that system.
Citing "Capacitance was first observed by Von Kleist of Leyden in 1754" with an 1775 Priestley 'History of Electricity strays into primary sourcing per WP:USEPRIMARY/notes. There are more examples of that in the article and we are far from "present scholarly consensus".
Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 17:36, 20 November 2013 (UTC)
The 95 year old (Public domain) tertiary source is reliable. And I hope that you understand that WP discourages secondary sources and prefers tertiary sources.
Anyways, most of Wikipedia was copied "copied and pasted verbatim" in the beginning and there is nothing to prevent that now. But you seem to be ignorant of the history of Wikipedia.
The AC generation and transmission system in America goes back to Nikola Tesla (which is why Westinghouse bought the rights to his patent). The European AC systems vary a bit, but mostly mirror his work [but was developed by others]. As to wireless and Tesla, John Stone Stone and Edwin Howard Armstrong stated they were both indebted to Tesla's work. Tesla was not a "pure" theoretician, he "theorized" about and built real things; and made them work [... theoreticians theorize of imaginary things]. Lastly, Lodge's work was predated by J. S. S. (IIRC) and himself predated by Tesla.
Priestley 'History of Electricity' is not a wholly and exclusively primary source, and your citing of it as such seriously questions your ability to evaluate sources. It is a survey of the study of electricity, something that would make it a secondary source.
On the general tone of your "theoretician" comments, not sure when this article lost the part about the devices in history of electromagnetism; but that should be restored [and I was personally was never really happy about the article move to the current title]
Lastly, your conduct of removing Nikola Tesla related information [not just here in this article, but in other articles] is an issue and a problem. --J. D. Redding 14:01, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
Don't know where you ever came up with "WP discourages secondary", WP:PST clearly states re: "Wikipedia articles usually rely on material from reliable secondary sources". Westinghouse was building an AC system before he even heard of Tesla. As to the rest of it, reliable secondary sources also disagree. I have reworded the article to put material in context referenced with secondary sources. The problem with primary sources inline has been cited for a while now. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 02:27, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

Out-of-date information[edit]

As noted above and in the template added to reference, large parts of this article are a direct copy and paste from The Encyclopedia Americana; a library of universal knowledge, a 1918 source. So the historical view in this historical article is way off, the source was written when some of these subjects were still alive and formulating their theories. I have tried to cleanup the more glaring problems (we are not referring to a series of "professors", some of which are still doing research and, no..., wireless telegraphy.... systems ... are NOT now in successful use on shipboard, lighthouses and shore and inland stations[2]) but the tone and factual accuracy of this article is way off. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 15:08, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

These tags need to removed. Fountains of Bryn Mawr has been a problem for some time. The 1918 source is reliable and acceptable; unless there has been policy changes. Wireless telegraphy systems have been used and were successful BM, along with modern radio. J. D. Redding 16:38, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

BM Editing with a POV[edit]

Fountain's anti-Teslaic editing is apparent here https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=History_of_electromagnetic_theory&diff=582762281&oldid=582672070

This should be corrected. --J. D. Redding 16:43, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

Feel free to site reliable sources that support your (pro-Tesla?) point of view. The burden is on you. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 20:00, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

The problem is non-existent. If you, BM, have a problem with a sentence, provide the item in bulleted list. I removed the tags. --J. D. Redding 17:35, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

Wireless Energy Transfer[edit]

This section is not neutral and refers only to a recent commercial name. The section should be rewritten using a reference to the Wireless power Transfer page and to all technologies in the field, starting with Tesla work a century ago and many others.Henri BONDAR (talk)

Its questionable to have an "Electromagnetic technologies" section in an article on the history of its "theory". So maybe we are talking more about deletion than a rewrite. The Wireless Energy Transfer section reads like a plug for WiTricity and WiTricity should be removed unless there are several reliable sources that this stuff is "called WiTricity". What should be here is a summary of the lead paragraph "History" summary found at Wireless power..... hmmm ... problem there, Wireless power does not have a history summary in its lead.... so a little work to do. The problem with inserting Tesla in a "History of electromagnetic theory" is Tesla was not a theoretician and did not believe in many parts of "electromagnetic theory" so he contributed very little (nothing?) to its historical development. He may not even show up in textbooks on electromagnetic theory so probably should not be in this article, some checking needed. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 20:09, 23 January 2016 (UTC)

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Robert Symmer and the two-fluid theory[edit]

I've changed the attribution of the two-fluid theory to Robert Symmer alone. This is also consistent with what is written in the linked article. If one person should be singled out, it should rather be du Fay. Phidus (talk) 11:37, 2 August 2017 (UTC)

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