Faraday Motor – 1821

Few inventions have shaped technology as much as the electric motor, but the very first version — the Faraday motor — didn't look anything like the modern motor.

MotorSelf-taught British scientist Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) built the first primitive motor about 1821, shortly after the discovery that an electric current produces a magnetic field.

His motor featured a stiff wire in a container of mercury (a metal that is liquid at room temperature and an excellent conductor) and a permanent bar magnet in the center of the container. He sent electricity through the wire and created a magnetic field around it. This field interacted with the field around the magnet and caused the wire to rotate around the magnet.

Even though it had no practical application, Faraday's invention was the first step in the evolution of the electric motor.

Other scientists quickly made improvements on it. A few months later, British physicist William Sturgeon developed the first rotary electric motor, a forerunner of the present-day direct-current motor.

Last modified on 10 December 2014