The History of Electrical Engineering: Crash Course Engineering #4

Electricity powers our world. And we harness it through electrical engineering,
the field that focuses on the application of electricity
and electromagnetism in our everyday lives. Just as you have blood pumping through your
veins, machines and systems often need electrical
power flowing through their wires to work. It’s the lifeblood of our society. And it’s hard to imagine society today without three
of the main branches of electrical engineering: telecommunications, power and lighting;
and computer engineering. They each came about in their own way, with
their own challenges and victories, their own
heroes and sometimes villains. And you’d be surprised how much death is
involved in the history of electrical engineering. Well, it can be dangerous. [Theme Music] Electrical engineering deals with the properties
of electricity and magnetism. So it stands to reason that the field didn’t really
exist until we knew what those things were. No one had a very good understanding of electromagnetism until English physicist William Gilbert released
his principal work, De Magnete, or “On the Magnet”,
back in 1600. After years of experimentation, he found that the needle
of a compass points north-south and dips downwards
because the Earth is basically a giant magnet. He was the first to describe the phenomena we now
associate with electrical attraction and magnetic poles, which is why many view him as
the father of electrical studies. Now, electrical conduction – which is the movement
of electrically charged particles through a transmission
medium – wasn’t discovered until around 1729, by a
British scientist – Stephen Gray. He discovered it while doing experiments in which
he connected a glass tube to various objects, like an
ivory ball or a piece of cork, by wire or string. When he rubbed the glass tube, creating friction,
he found the object at the other end of the line
would be electrified. With the age of discovery and colonization upon
the world, could Gray’s work be used to produce
a faster means of communication? This brings us to the start of the first field
of electrical engineering: telecommunication. Efforts to communicate over long distances,
by things like semaphore, were undertaken as
early as the 1700s. But it wasn’t until 1837 that Sir William
Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone
patented the first electric telegraph. Their design used five or six magnetic needles
to sway right or left to indicate specific letters. This early model was a little impractical
because of its cost, but the men later patented a
new version that only used one magnetic needle. Their invention was clearly a neat idea. But it didn’t really take off, until it was used to
solve a murder that sounds like it was lifted from
the pages of a Sherlock Holmes novel. On New Year’s Day 1845, a man named John Tawell
gave a woman he was seeing a fatal dose of poison. As the poison set in, she started to scream,
which alerted the neighbors. And Tawell ran off in a panic, thinking he
escaped the law as he boarded a train from
Slough to London. But his escape was foiled by technology. His description was sent by telegraph to London,
where Tawell was arrested and later tried and hanged. It’s a rather gruesome way to make an
invention popular, but it spread the story of
the electric telegraph nonetheless. Around the same time as all of this was happening,
Samuel Morse was making his own developments
in the United States. He figured out how to use an electromagnet
with a pen, so that when the electromagnet was
energized, the pen made a mark on paper. In 1838, he developed a system of dots and
dashes, now known as Morse code, so that
messages could be easily transmitted. By 1844, he had obtained financial support
from Congress and built the first telegraph
line in the United States. It travelled between Baltimore and Washington,
and on May 24th, he sent the line’s first message,
“What hath God wrought.” Pretty ominous, if I do say so myself. About 20 years later, in 1866, the British ship
Great Eastern succeeded in laying the first permanent
telegraph line across the Atlantic Ocean. Before it, large bodies of water were a big
obstacle for means of telecommunication. After the transatlantic telegraph line, some engineers
began to realize that by fluctuating an electric current,
they could induce different sound vibrations. It made them wonder, if they could
manipulate sound vibrations, could they input a sound on one end of a telegraph
line and replicate the same sound on the other end? Could they capture the human voice? By 1876, they did just that, with the invention
of the telephone. A few different minds came up with similar ideas
at the same time, but Alexander Graham Bell was
the first to get the patent. He was able to use a fluctuating current to vary the magnetism in the coil of an electromagnet, which caused a small piece of iron to vibrate on a diaphragm. This replicated the vibration that had initially sent
the fluctuation, which reproduced the initial sound. Now you could call talk to people who were
far away, but you still needed telephone lines and
a phone with a physical connection to them. But that changed when Heinrich Hertz discovered
electromagnetic waves around 1887. It was soon realized that these waves could
carry a signal by modifying their wavelength,
amplitude, and frequency. This led to the radio, and the never-ending
confusion over who gets credit for inventing it. Now, after World War I, electrical engineers
manipulated these signals and found that along with
the conversion of light to electrical impulses, they could create a visual broadcast: television. Since then, we’ve taken these signals even
further. With the internet and wifi, we’ve developed
nearly instant, wireless communication around
the world. But electrical engineering is far more than
telecommunication. We have electrical engineering to thank for
supplying power and light. In 1801, Sir Humphry Davy discovered that he
could produce a brilliant spark, or arc, between
two carbon rods in a battery circuit. This is called arc lighting. Davy’s battery wasn’t powerful enough
to produce a stable arc. So arc lighting wasn’t commercially
feasible until the 1870’s, after Belgian-born engineer Zénobe-Théophile
Gramme developed a generator that could support
a higher power capacity. It was called the Gramme dynamo, a
continuous-current electrical generator that drove
the push for electrical power. While arc lighting began showing up on streets
around the world, Thomas Edison realized that arc
lighting was too bright to be used in the home. This led to his development of the incandescent
lamp. By capitalizing on the work of many others, his incandescent lighting systems were soon featured
at popular exhibits such as the Paris Lighting Exhibition
in 1881 and the Crystal Palace in London. But Edison quickly gained competition, most notably
from George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. This led to what’s now remembered as the
War of Currents, with Westinghouse and Tesla as proponents
of an alternating, or AC, current against Edison’s
direct, or DC, current. Edison did his best to discredit AC currents by
trying to convince the public they were dangerous. He had animals electrocuted by AC currents on
public display, and even recommended electrocution
as a death-penalty alternative to hanging prisoners. At which he succeeded. The first person to be executed by electricity was
a convicted murderer named William Kemmler, who
was put to death in the electric chair in 1890. Despite his other efforts, though, Edison
failed to discredit the push for AC. Westinghouse won the contract to supply electricity to
the 1893 World’s fair in Chicago, and AC currents have
since become dominant in the electric power industry. We also have electrical engineering to thank for
many of the electronic devices we use every day. That brings us to the third field of electrical
engineering: computers. In their beginning, before World War II,
most computers were part of what was called
“radio engineering”. Most of the computer’s focus was on radar,
radio, and early television. Their primary work was in processing the signals
of those devices. Computers only began to gain a broader audience
after the transistor was developed in 1947. The point-contact transistor was a semiconductor
device that could amplify or switch electrical signals. It allowed electrical engineers to replace
vacuum tubes, which were bulky, unstable,
and consumed too much power. But while the computers could be smaller,
they were still pretty large. They also needed a separate integrated chip
for each one of their functions. Then, in 1968, American engineer Marcian Hoff
helped solve these problems. He conceived of a universal processor that
could be used by all computers. His work led to the Intel 4004, the world’s
first commercial microprocessor. Since microprocessors were so tiny, the computers
themselves could be even smaller. And, that’s how electrical engineers shaped the
world we live in today: with telecommunications,
electric power and lighting, and computers. The fact is, it takes all three of these fields – none
of which existed until a couple hundred years ago – to
work together, for you to watch me right now. So today we explored the history of each of these fields, touching on such topics as magnetism, electrical conduction, telegraphy, lighting, and computers. Crash Course Engineering is produced in association
with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check out a playlist of their amazing shows, like Brain Craft, Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe, and Hot Mess. Crash Course is a Complexly production and this
episode was filmed in the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney
Studio with the help of these wonderful people. And our amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.

Comments 100

  • Not a bad video but I think that it would have been worthwhile to at least touch on industrial automation which has had a huge impact on the modern world.

  • But what's the next episode

  • Whaaaat? No mention of the induction motor by Tesla 😕

  • Thank you for the info on Edison! Great video!

  • Can u please do a crash course on An Inspector Calls I am studying it for GCSE and after watching Jane Eyre (which helped ALOT) I would really appreciate you doing a video on it

  • So Electro-Mechanical Engineers are basically gods right? XP

  • Terrible giving Westinghouse so much credit for Tesla’s work as if they both developed AC. Not only that but why can’t Tesla be thanked for his creation of radio? Not enough credit to the man who’s literally the reason for what we have today. Thumbs down

  • These have been pretty weak so far imo. Are you going to go into more detail on some topics, or is this "history of science 1.2"?

  • -And if you use Alternate Current, people will think you're gay.
    -One of us! One of us!

  • Ehh.. electronic engineering

  • New narrator? I like her.

  • Πόσο καύλα είναι αυτή η μαυρούλα!!!!
    Θέλω να την αγκαλιάσω, να την πηδήξω και να της πω και ένα μεγάλο μπράβο για τις γνώσεις της.

  • 🇮🇳 INDIAN MILF 😍

  • (Quote from video) William Gilbert was the first to describe the phenomena — magnet points down, etc.. — No, it was a phenomenon, singular. Phenomena is lots of phenomenon(s), plural.

  • You guys should do crash course music history!

  • Crash Course physics was for high schoolers, this series appears to be for grade schoolers. Will you have more depth in future episodes?

  • Petroleum Engineering please.

  • Funny how British people always try to pretend they are the pioneer of science… The fact is that electricity was know way before England was something. The Baghdad battery existed many hundred years ago! Static electricity and ferromagnetism was known since Ancient Egypt!

  • It's a little disappointing that she didn't mention bio-electronics the way she did with bio-mechanics…
    Still a great vid

  • Crash Course should do a graphic design/animation course on like how they do Thought Bubble and everything! That'd be so cool

  • So as far as i know, when Edison tryed to use AC to electrocute animals it didnt kill them so he secretly switched to DC and called it AC. Is this not true? Because i have been working under the assumption that AC is safer than DC.

  • I wish Michael Faraday and the faraday scale was mentioned


  • anyone else notice the annoying background noises?

  • I like you Shini, you are cute

  • Edison again :)) scumbag

  • That's really need shelf in the background. Took me awhile to notice it.

  • ECE=EE

  • His description: "T, H , I, K"
    I see what you did there.


  • merely mentioned tesla

  • Really? No mention of Micahel Faraday at all?!?!

  • No mention of Nikolai Tesla?

  • Waiting for computer science engineering CC

  • Lets Play A Game… >_<


    What Colour Do You See… >_<?

  • what is best to learn about robots electrical or mechanical

  • Okay episode but so focused on executions and glossing over of the really good stuff.
    Invention of the battery to electric cars and trolleybuses. Only 10 minutes and it did not do the field justice focusing on the electric chair.

  • Antonio Meucci invented the telephone, not Bell. Alberto Dumont invented the airplane, not the Write brothers. Let's start telling the truth.

  • Crash Course Linguistics please!!!!

  • how come she didn't make a big deal about the father of electrical engineering, Nikola Tesla. he and Isaac Newton were without saying the smartest 2 guys that walk on this earth. we need someone that's on there level to sort out quantum and string theory,.

  • She should have said: “And you’d be surprised in how much depth is involved in the history of Electrical Engineering. Well, it [might just shock you!]”

    (Add 2 eighth-note drums, and a crash a beat later)

  • To those who may scroll down here (or have already commented) to say that they missed certain prominent figures or breakthroughs that you may feel should have been mentioned in this video, there are a couple things to consider:

    1) This is only the 4th in a series of videos, and at the moment we aren’t quite sure what else may be covered at a later date.

    2) It’s also possible that the event or figure was covered in an episode of a different series, as is the case with James Clark Maxwell and his equations being mentioned in their series on physics, in which case it doesn’t make sense to spend too much unnecessary time on it here.

    3) As others have said, many of the specific figures people have mentioned aren’t engineers at all, but rather scientists or mathematicians. While it’s still crucial to give due credit to all those who helped bring about these advances in engineering, the purpose of this series is to highlight the engineers themselves, as well as their creations.

    That said, I do love seeing the discussions in the comments about these figures and their contributions to not only these respective fields of engineering, but to engineering and science as a whole. It’s genuinely amazing to see how the influence of many individuals can create these innovations as each person builds on the foundation laid by the last, and especially to see the underlying framework laid out by some of the lesser known, but equally important, contributors.

  • Computer engineers of the world, unite!!

  • ….. and the Chinese claim that they invented the Modern World! LOL… Study Electrical Engineering and you will see that not one, not a single, invention regarding electricity/computing/telecommunication/power was discovered by the Chinese.

  • okay, so u credit just the "amazing" american electrical engineers, even tho mihajlo pupin invented the telepohone, and nikola tesla the ac current? amazing job uneducated 'murica aplause

  • indian women are so pretty

  • Can you accept my subtitles?

  • I miss Hank.

  • This is so good but do you add Turkish subtitles ? Cause I want to show to my friends ..

  • What happened to Tesla?! He discovered so much of this and let other people get patents because he wanted to keep discovering new things.

  • I loved the vedio very much but I am more interested in where you got that Walee figure from

  • Extream,y well put, but I wanna show those videos to my little niece because I want here to be more interested in my work field so I wish you can include more live examples like having a small transistor in your hand when you talk about it. but in general, you are doing an amazing job.

  • Maxwell?

  • More errors: Edison did not stage public electrocutions of animals. Nor did he champion the use of electricity for executions. The credit in both of those cases goes to Harold P. Brown, a salesman turned anti-AC-crusader. While it might be simpler to "forget" him and say Edison did those things (as few have heard about Brown but most know abut Edison) you end up painting a false picture of history, something I would have expected Crash Course to be above.

  • Did no one else notice the early telegraph spelling "THIKK" when supposedly describing Slough? Gave me a good chuckle. I love this channel.

  • Very sad to see this dark point of view of Electricity… and no Maxwell !!! My expectations were way too higher… Even the Faraday's incredible history has not been shown. This guy was the first one to associate light and electromagnetism…!!! Jesus!! And them we need Maxwell again to help with the math and concepts… But don't worry! They will live forever in our pure hearts (with also a great space for Tesla, our brow).

  • CC on Electrical Engineering….doesn't mention the most important electromagnetic experimentalist of all time (Faraday) and the most important theoretician (Maxwell). What next,. a CC on gravity with no mention of Newton and Einstein? Madness!

  • what about software engineering ???

  • 3:12
    Samuel Morse.
    In Morse Code up there under "ENGINEATO!", it says lol.

  • Benjamin Franklin's work in electricity contributed quite a lot. Volta, Ohm, Ampere; perhaps an entire series devoted to electrical engineering is the suggestion. May we also have crash courses in brewing and distilling; noteworthy sub-disciplines of chemical engineering as they are? Cheers!

  • Super trop cool j'adore les cours d'anglais avec Nathalie Kauffman! Good video !

  • Elle est quand meme sacrément fraiche cette présentatrice, faut que je me la fasse

  • Makeup is so distracting.

  • This is gold

  • What about Software?

  • All I can say is nikola tesla is un arguably the greatest electrical engineer that has ever lived.

  • 3:12 why morse code?

    3:30 oh…

  • I love you ………

  • Your shelves are not level or plumb.

  • beauty and brain. i looooove you

  • Who said Marcian Hoff? It was primarily the work of Federico Faggin that led to the development of Intel 4004.

  • Beautiful and intelligent…

  • Incredible information.
    And very well presented.

  • Love ur videos and u alsao 😘

  • No Michael Faraday, Volta, Galvani, Oersted? The history of power engineering is basically Humphry Davy + the war of currents? No transformers?

  • What about signal processing? 🙁
    Awesome vid tho 🙂

  • at 2:30 only 20 letters can be made with that device. Still a feat of ingenuity but nevertheless quite awkward

  • Translate to the Arabic language please

  • 2:58 – "His description was sent by telegraph to London". T-H-I-K-K

  • it is great explanation

  • where is faraday

  • This made me look at modern phones in a new light more like the amazement that it's not connected to anything.
    And awakening the awareness of this in me at least for now less I forget.

    I have a new appreciation of this device I was not yet aware of.

  • where might i find more in depth videos on engineering? im considering an engineering degree and i need something deeper

  • They missed so much with this video. It’s a shame. Once again it’s all about Edison.

  • Seriously, not one mention of Maxwell?!?!

  • Wasn’t it Tesla that discovered indoor lighting?

  • you cannot even imagine life 200 years ago …

    it is easy to forget that human modern civilization is 120 years old .
    and it all begin whit oil . 1900
    and it will end whit oil . 2050

  • Fascinating and clear.

  • Please do videos on transistors

  • Automatic is also a field of electrical engineering.

  • ليه توقفت الترجمة العربيه الكثير جدا من اصدقائى لا يستطيعون مشاهده المحتوى لانهم لا يجيدون اللغه الانجليزيه
    اذا استطعتم ان تقوموا بترجمتها صديقى سيقوم بعمل اعلان لكم فى قناته

  • ليه توقفت الترجمة العربيه الكثير جدا من اصدقائى لا يستطيعون مشاهده المحتوى لانهم لا يجيدون اللغه الانجليزيه
    اذا استطعتم ان تقوموا بترجمتها صديقى سيقوم بعمل اعلان لكم فى قناته

  • ليه توقفت الترجمة العربيه الكثير جدا من اصدقائى لا يستطيعون مشاهده المحتوى لانهم لا يجيدون اللغه الانجليزيه
    اذا استطعتم ان تقوموا بترجمتها صديقى سيقوم بعمل اعلان لكم فى قناته

  • ليه توقفت الترجمة العربيه الكثير جدا من اصدقائى لا يستطيعون مشاهده المحتوى لانهم لا يجيدون اللغه الانجليزيه
    اذا استطعتم ان تقوموا بترجمتها صديقى سيقوم بعمل اعلان لكم فى قناته

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *