As you probably know, electricity is the thing that happens when two clouds rub together. Lightning is produced, and in no time at all lightening conductors are sent by the Electricity Board to direct it
to near-by pylons, enormous electrical lamposts found mainly in the countryside. Nowadays we think nothing of relaxing in an electric chair while electric ovens use ‘microwaves’ (tiny, invisible amounts of hot water) to cook our meals. We use electrocution to help us talk more properly, while in the bedroom electric blankets fold themselves. But things weren’t always this easy.
It was of course Sir Isaac Walton who invented the electric cable, while waiting for the kettle to boil. He decided to suspend an apple from a wire strung between two opposite poles in a magnetic field near his home. Cable or ‘telegraph’ poles like these are now an everyday sight in Britain. The invention of electricity, so named after the ‘electricity meters’ underneath the stairs in which it is kept, meant that previously ‘wireless’ radios could now be plugged in, giving them pictures. Almost overnight, television had been born.
Electricity charges of 240 volts (about 5 pounds per week) are commonplace today, but electricity had been free up until the time of the Norman Conquest. Norman’s brother, William the Conqueror, caused an electric storm when he announced that people would have to pay for their electricity. This earned him the nickname ‘Electricity Bill’, a term which is still in use today.
There are two main types of electricity. The first, which we use every day to light our rooms, comes in bulbs, a special kind of onion grown in the soil, (hence its name ‘earth’ electricity). ‘Live’ electricity, which comes from animals, is far more dangerous, as King Canute discovered when a spider burnt his cakes giving him an ‘electric shock’. But it was Dr.David Livingstone, with his unusual ability to talk to animals, who first harnessed this form of electricity. His ‘Davy’ lamp, containing a bright yellow canary, was used to light coal mines, and these ‘miner’ birds are today a popular household pet.
As recently as 1966, Sir Stanley Mattews was awarded the World Cup for his discovery that the electric atmosphere found inside football stadiums could be used to power enormous ‘floodlights’ during periods of heavy rainfall. More recently ‘damns’, (so named by an architect after he’d forgotten to leave a gap for the water while building a bridge), have been used to prevent flooding. In Britain today, there are millions of ‘electric fans’; people who prefer electricity to other forms of energy.
For further information send a SAE to your nearest Electrical Dealer or write to the Electricity Consumer’s Council, a voluntary organisation set up to help people who have consumed large amounts of electric currants etc.