Why didn't older civilizations discover or make use of electricity?

Feb 2014
298
Miami
#21
I think one problem was it may have been seen as magic or power of the gods.

When a steam power instrument was presented by hero, the romans could care less for it.

50 CE: A Steam Engine in Ancient Rome – The Foresight Guide

The romans knew of windmills and never made much use with them. The article mentions the romans mistrusted technology. Wouldn’t help when religious radicals took over the empire in its latter centuries and ensured no technological advancement. Especially when it was viewed as witchcraft or pagan

If the Greeks or Romana had harnessed electricity in anyways, with how much it is referenced to the Greek god of Zeus (lightning), or to the powers of god, the papyrus books of this technology would have been destroyed by religious radicals like that of the time of theodosus
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,557
#22
But England defeated the Spanish and French in navel battles and became the dominant colonizing power in the Americas. And the Spanish and French lost their colonies before the English did. I'm sure other parts of Europe had more or less the same amount of coal the British Isles had. The industrial revolution started in Britain as it had a more developed and large economy compared to the other colonial powers and other parts of Europe at that time.
Its not about amount... It about having large concentrations in easily accesible places close to production centers .... So having large amounts of "cheap" coal and iron and wood and water in close proximity to each other and to production centers definitely helps....
 
Mar 2014
1,954
Lithuania
#23
I might be wrong, but as far as I understand we still do not fully understand electricity and how it works. We understand just enough to use it, but not to explain everything in full and comprehensive proven theory.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,717
Sydney
#24
Technological Progress require a very broad set of mutually supportive technologies , financial structures and intellectual bases

the industrial revolution needed Galileo and Descartes , a banking system , advanced metal working and the needs created by population pressure

the first steam engine the Newcomen was developed to solve the problem of mine flooding ,
wood was becoming a scarce fuel and resorting to coal was hitting the water table problem

James Watt first steam engine was to replace expensive horses to power Mr Whitbread brewery mills
it was going to be scrapped after more than 100 years of faithful service but was rescued and is now in Sydney powerhouse museum

at the time shipyards and army contract had led to the development of large metallurgical concern

the first practical use of electricity was a for scientific study , Galvany demonstrated its effect on organism
Volta , Ampere , Ohms and Faraday gave it a quantitative dimension

indoor lighting and telegraph soon followed , electric motor struggled somewhat against the well established steam until post WW1
 
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Likes: Kotromanic
Dec 2011
4,808
Iowa USA
#25
While the telegraph can be considered a successful electrical advance, it owes more to understanding vibrations and conservation of momentum than to what the OP is calling "electromagnetic theory". That's an opinion but I'm building towards the idea that "knowing" about electromagnetism is really more recent than Faraday, who had excellent insight without knowledge of how electric charge was transported.

It was not until the 1890s that the existence of the electrical charge carrier was unambiguously demonstrated (J.J. Thompson).

Prior to the 1890s electrical theory relied mostly on analogy to fluid physics. Even the standard symbols partially match in electrical and hydrology equations today.

Some of the underlying technologies which allowed scientists to accurately hypothesize on the structure of the atom were high voltage cells and the development of the periodic table of elements that helped to understand the chemical properties of gases. The acceptance of the ideal gas "law" would have been necessary also. Also, its likely that precision lens grinding was necessary to observe the behavior of gasses in an electric field.
 
Jan 2015
2,933
MD, USA
#26
Well, arguably so is fire.
Sure, but fire in nature comes in variable amounts, and can at least sometimes be controlled or extinguished. Or just avoided. It last longer than lightning, and its potential for heating, light, and defense are immediately apparent. You can pick up a burning stick from the edge of a natural fire and carry it into your cave, and then either add to it or increase it or extinguish it. With instant benefits. Cooking took longer to figure out. And of course once it was found that you could *make* fire, wee hee!

Matthew
 
Jan 2015
2,933
MD, USA
#27
Yes, they all fall under the electricity umbrella


Irrelevant. Lightning, electric eel shocks, static shocks all count as electric charge.
Sure, so? *We* know that, but did the ancients?

People in ancient times could have investigated more on these observations and could note some similarities between them.
And it's possible that they did! Dig through Pliny or other writers on nature, etc., maybe someone made that connection. BUT it's still several large leaps from there to applicable electric *current*.

Matthew
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,717
Sydney
#28
" Even the standard symbols partially match in electrical and hydrology equations today. "
that's true , even today for basic electric power the analogy is somewhat helpful
 
Dec 2011
4,808
Iowa USA
#29
" Even the standard symbols partially match in electrical and hydrology equations today. "
that's true , even today for basic electric power the analogy is somewhat helpful
About every three years a thread comes along aligned to my background of having done academic work in both environmental science *and* grad level electromagnetics, LOL!
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,296
Australia
#30
Electricity was little more than a curiosity until after 1600, when increasing amounts of research began to be done with it. Aside from the lack of basic understanding, there was the problem of technology. Crude metal is insufficient for using electricity in an efficient way. You need pure, standardized conductors and a means of producing electricity to even start considering its wide spread use. Such technology did not exist in the ancient world. So to do this you need more advanced understanding of electricity and the various technologies to build upon it.

and insulation material ... and ummmm ... something to use the electricity for .

Lighting, heating ? Same problems with lack of technology .