As the rest of the world is observing Discovery Channel®’s legendary Shark Week 2014, we at Mr. Electric® took it upon ourselves to set aside this time to celebrate what we have endearingly termed Spark Week. While the fascinating facts and featured film clips of the mystifying creatures are fun and interesting to watch, we believe the electric spark is just as deserving of our appreciation for a week as sharks are – especially taking into consideration that electricity wouldn’t exist without it.
The History of the Spark
As far back as 600 BC, a Greek philosopher by the name of Thales of Miletus discovered that when amber is rubbed with a cloth, it can be electrified and attract other objects and produce sparks. German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz made the association of sparks with electrical phenomena in 1671. There were some more experiments performed in 1708 by Samuel Wall with amber rubbed with cloth to produce sparks. And finally, the story we are all familiar with, in 1972 Thomas-Francois Dalibard and Benjamin Franklin each independently demonstrated that lighting and electricity were the same thing. Ben even extracted sparks from a cloud during a thunderstorm with his famous kite experiment.
What the Spark Means for Electricity
The discovery of the electric spark encouraged electrical research. Once scientists began to understand how electric sparks occurred in nature, the question became how that power could be harnessed and controlled. This was the beginning of electricity.
What the Spark Means for You
Spark plugs begin the combustion in your car’s engine, allowing you to start your car every morning. The discovery of the electric spark led to the development of spark-gap transmitters. While these transmitters are no longer used in radio communication today, they played a large part in the beginning of wireless communication. Without sparks, you would have a much harder time driving, listening to music, and even seeing in the dark. The discovery of sparks is one of the most important scientific advances in history, so don’t forget to celebrate Spark Week!