In the early 1800s, electricity was in the air. Inventors in Europe and America were coming up with new theories and inventions all the time. They typically knew nothing about each other and developed similar solutions independently.
Timetable 1800 – 1834: First experiments with electromagnetic devices
1800 For the first time Allessandro Volta (Italian) produces continuous electrical power (as opposed to a spark or static electricity) from a stack of silver and zinc plates.
1820 Hans Christian Oersted (Danish) finds the generation of a magnetic field by electric currents by observation of the deflection of a compass needle. This was the first time a mechanical movement was caused by an electric current
1820 André-Marie Ampère (French) invents the cylindrical coil (solenoid).
1821 Michael Faraday (British) creates two experiments that demonstrate electromagnetic rotation. A vertically suspended wire moves in a circular orbit around a magnet.
1822 The first rotating device driven by electromagnetism was built by the Englishman Peter Barlow (Barlow’s Wheel).
1825 William Sturgeon (British) invents the electromagnet, a coil of wires with an iron core to enhance the magnetic field.
1827 Jedlik (Hungarian) invents the first rotary machine with electromagnets and a commutator. However, Jedlik publicly reported his invention only decades later and the actual invention date is uncertain.
1830 Johann Michael Ekling, the mechanic in Vienna, builds a motor according to the plans and ideas of Prof. Andreas von Baumgartner (Austrian physicist) this apparatus was acquired in 1830 by the University of Innsbruck for the price of 50 Austrian florins. The year of construction is unknown but must have been before 1830 as the date of purchase is proven.
1831 Michael Faraday (British) discovers and investigates electromagnetic induction, i.e. the generation of an electric current due to a varying magnetic field (the reversal of Oersted’s discovery). Faraday lays the foundation for the development of the electric generator.
1834 After many other attempts with relatively weak rotating and reciprocating apparatus the German-speaking Prussian Moritz Jacobi created the first real rotating electric motor that actually developed a remarkable mechanical output power.
1838 Jacobi sets a world record only four years after creating the rotating electric motor in 1834. His second motor was powerful enough to drive a boat with 14 people across a wide river.
Early motors typically wrapped copper wire with cotton insulation.
1837 Thomas Davenport patented the electric motor. Several texts of dripping pathos in US-American literature celebrate Thomas Davenport as the inventor of the electric motor. This assertion is based on the undisputed fact that Davenport was the first American to create a usable electric motor and the first to receive a patent for such a device. From 1837 to 1866 about 100 patents on electric motors were granted to other inventors in England alone. Since Davenport redesigned his motor in 1837, his patent became practically worthless.