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Energy Inventors

You've heard of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. Did you know there are hundreds of other inventors who helped the world understand how energy works?

In fact, many energy words are named for the inventors who discovered them or first explained them.

Take a look at these famous scientists to find out how they changed the world with their experiments!


Benjamin Franklin

  • Benjamin FranklinBorn: January 17, 1706
  • Lived in: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Discovered: Positive and negative electrical charges, and that lightning is a form of electricity (the famous "kite and key" experiment).
  • Invented: Lightning rod, Franklin stove, swimming fins, bifocal lenses for eyeglasses, odometer (which measures distance)
  • Died: April 17, 1790

Learn more about Benjamin Franklin

Did you know?

Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General of the United States. He was also a founder of the University of Pennsylvania and started the first public library in America.


James Watt

  • James WattBorn: January 19, 1736
  • Lived in: Glasgow, Scotland, and Birmingham, England
  • Invented: An improved steam engine, which was a big part of the Industrial Revolution and made him a rich man. He also created the term "horsepower" to measure the power of an engine.
  • Died: August 19, 1819

Learn more about James Watt

Did you know?

Before he worked on steam engines, Watt made musical instruments. The word "watt," which measures the amount of power something uses, was named for James Watt.  


Alessandro Volta

  • Alessandro VoltaBorn: February 18, 1745
  • Lived in: Como, Italy
  • Discovered: Methane gas.
  • Invented: The first battery, called the "Voltaic pile." The electrophorus, which produced static electricity.
  • Died: March 5, 1827

Learn more about Alessandro Volta

Did you know?

The words "volt" (a measure of electric pressure) and "photovoltaics" (converting light into electricity) were named for Alessandro Volta. Toyota named their new battery-powered car the "Volta."


Michael Faraday

  • Michael FaradayBorn: September 22, 1791
  • Lived in: London, England
  • Discovered: Electromagnetic induction - if he moved a magnet through a loop of wire, the wire would become electrified. The "Faraday effect," that proved that light and magnetic force are related. Electrolysis, which uses electricity to separate matter. Also discovered the chemical benzene.
  • Invented: The dynamo, which converted motion into electricity. The "Faraday cage," which blocks electric waves.
  • Died: August 25, 1867

Learn more about Michael Faraday

Did you know?

Many scientists didn’t believe Faraday's ideas because he didn't have a college education - he was completely self-taught. 


Thomas Edison

  • Thomas EdisonBorn: February 11, 1847
  • Lived in: Ohio and New Jersey
  • Discovered: The "Edison effect," or electric waves in space. This discovery allowed for the invention of radios, televisions, computers and other wireless products.
  • Invented: An improved incandescent light bulb, sound recorder, movie camera, telegraph machines, electric vote recorder, stock ticker, microphone, batteries, X-ray machines - and more than 2,000 other devices.
  • Died: October 18, 1931

Learn more about Thomas Edison

Did you know?

Thomas Edison was almost completely deaf. He lost most of his hearing as a young boy.


Nikola Tesla

  • Nikola TeslaBorn: July 10, 1856
  • Lived in: Croatia, Hungary, France, New York, Colorado
  • Discovered: Alternating current electricity, hydroelectric power, radio waves, radar, robotics
  • Invented: The "Tesla coil" electric transformer, the first long-distance power system, electric motors, loudspeakers, X-ray machines, remote controls, man-made lightning bolts.
  • Died: January 7, 1943

Learn more about Nikola Tesla

Did you know?

Nikola Tesla worked for Thomas Edison, but they later became enemies. One of Tesla's best friends was the writer Mark Twain.