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Today, people use generators in various applications, from supplying backup power to homes and businesses in Frederick, MD, to providing electricity in remote areas where grid power is unavailable. You can trace the history of generators back to the early 19th century when British physicist Michael Faraday discoverd electromagnetic induction. This article will explore the evolution of generators from Faraday’s discovery to modern-day technology and how they have shaped the world’s power supply.

The Faraday Generating Coil

During the 1800s, the industrial revolution was rapidly advancing with new steam-powered machines. However, steam power had limitations and was not accessible to the general population. In the 1820s, Michael Faraday, a member of the Royal Society of London, conducted experiments and built on the research of Alessandro Volta and Hans Christian Oersted on early batteries, magnetism, and motion.

Faraday’s groundbreaking discovery in 1831 was the introduction of the Faraday generating coil, which revolutionized the field of electrical power. This coil was constructed by winding a copper wire coil around a hollow core. As a magnetized iron rod was moved through the coil, it induced a current within the coil.

Faraday demonstrated that the magnet had to be in motion to induce a current, marking an early demonstration of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. This principle became the foundation of modern dynamos, which have been vital in generating electrical power ever since.


Using 40 magnets and 60 coils, a Brussels professor named Floris Nollet built a large machine called “The Alliance.” This machine produced 50 volts of built-up energy and could power the only electrical lamp at the time, the arch lamp. Although effective, the arch lamp was impractical because it kept breaking.

The year 1856 marked the first use of alternating current (AC) to generate electricity for lighting when it was discovered that AC could effectively light up the arch lamp. Meanwhile, Samuel Varley, a British telegraph operator, also invented a generator with electromagnets in 1856.

Henry Wilde documented in 1864 how he utilized electromagnets to create a generator and the thought process behind it. His concept was to produce electricity using magnets and then use that electricity to create even more electricity through the electromagnets. This was achieved through self-excitation, whereby some of the generated electricity was sent back into the electromagnet wires, creating magnetism and powerful feedback loops.


The discovery of self-excitation was made in 1866 by Werner Von Siemens, a German scientist. Siemens was the first company to manufacture self-excited generators, which they named Dynamo. The company used the “Dynamo” name for its DC generators for over 50 years.

Despite the popularity of Dynamo generators, many companies still preferred using commutators to create pulsed DC over AC. This was due to a mistaken belief that AC was more dangerous than DC and the assumption that self-excitation couldn’t be used with AC due to the need for direct current in electromagnets.

Multi-Phase AC Generators

In 1887, Nikola Tesla invented a multi-phase AC generator and a corresponding motor. Spinning separate coils around electromagnets provided more power by transmitting out-of-phase alternating current over more wires. Using multiple separate coils in a multi-phase AC system helps to produce more robust motors, as each coil generates a different current phase.

After the creation of the diode, alternating current and self-excitation could be utilized at the same time. This explains how the world can generate high amounts of electric power today.

Nearly all forms of electricity are generated by rotating electromagnets near wire coils. With the advancements in technology and affordability, home standby generators are now more efficient and sophisticated than ever before.

Contact Griffith Energy Services today if you’re sick and tired of worrying about sudden power outages. The clear solution is investing in a reliable generator. To say that our veteran technicians deliver doggone dependable service is a complete understatement. We’ll do everything possible to ensure your home doesn’t lose power, even during the roughest storms.

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