Year of Invention: 1831
What Is It? A machine that converts electrical energy into mechanical motion.
Who Invented It? Michael Faraday (in London, England)
Sewing machines, streetcars, blenders, fans, air conditioners, power saws and drills, washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, and dishwashers all run on electric motors. Your family’s car starts with an electric motor. Almost everything you own or use that has moving parts runs by an electric motor. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, most of the world’s factory and household motors have been electric.
Humans used manual labor, animal power, wind power, and water power to move equipment, run mills and machines, and power agriculture. They burned wood and coal to power forges and stoves and provide heat.
When James Watt invented the steam engine, industry and transportation shifted to steam. However, no engine existed for small uses—for motors inside the home, small appliances, or small work engines. Electricity was still a novelty in the early 1800s. Power stations and distribution lines did not exist.
Michael Faraday was the son of a blacksmith and had no formal education. Apprenticed to a bookmaker at age 14 (in 1805), he was a self-taught science enthusiast. By the age of 18, his first love had settled on chemistry, and for all his life he called himself a chemist even though his fame came from his discoveries and inventions with electricity.
In 1820, Danish scientist Hans Christian Oersted discovered that there was a link between electricity and magnetism. In 1822, Faraday, now working as an assistant to famed English scientist Sir Humphry Davy, decided to use Oersted’s amazing discovery to invent a device Faraday called the “rotator.”