What is Electrical Engineering? (Summary)

It started with static electricity- it makes clothes stick to your body. You might take it for granted only to note it once you see it. Before the 1500s, nobody knew about clothe dryers, finding static electricity wasn’t as easy as doing laundry. However, William Gilbert intervened showing light; he is the father of the modern electrical engineering. He is the first worlds’ electrical engineer. What he invented could tell the difference between charged and non charged objects. The device evolved to the modern electroscope that is currently used by engineers to detect the magnitude of electrical charges. A metallic needle mounted at the base would spin towards the charged object showing the presence of static charge.

What is Electrical Engineering?

Engineering incorporates many things. For example, 10 engineering students can all study engineering. That same group could all end up working in a different line of work. One of the youngest fields of engineering is electrical engineering. Since the 19th century, great minds have worked to discover and work with electricity. The field involves a number of different related subjects. For example, hardware that uses electricity falls under this field. So do the tiny parts that conduct electricity. As we move into a greener future, electric power is also a focus. The main idea behind electricity is its ability to be created. You can conduct electricity if you know how to set up a system.

What Do Electrical Engineers Study?

Electrical engineers, like any engineer, study a mixture of science and math. Both fields help to build an understanding of formulas and sequences. When studying their particular field, electrical engineering students also study the elements of electricity. Some of this can include physics and chemistry. A whole separate field of electrical science is often offered as well. In the early days, electrical engineers came from other fields. Now, the world’s top universities have specific programs for this field.

Many think first of vehicles when they think of electrical machines. There are a lot of cars today that run solely on electricity. How can this be possible? The field has certainly developed quite a bit in the last 200 years. Things like transmissions and engines now require nothing but conductors of electricity and batteries. It’s a feat many worked their entire careers to achieve. A lot of other fields of study utilize the works of electrical engineers. For example, many who plan for a new building utilize electrical engineers in the planning process.

There are a ton of areas of interest for eletrical engineers today. Of course, one of the major fields of the industry is in the utility of electricity. Many who work on power lines have backgrounds in electrical engineering. There are a lot of programs that offer training in the field. Likewise, you can study the subject in a four year degree. There are a lot of people who don’t understand the first thing about electricity. For many of us, it’s as simple as turning on a light switch and never thinking about it again. For others, it’s their entire life’s work to find ways to make those light switches more powerful or accurate in triggering electric responses. Everything from computers to cars and even our homes utilize the work of electrical engineers.

At one point, electricity wasn’t known to humanity. We might have known something was there, but we didn’t know what to do with it. How did electricity get discovered, then? Let’s dive into the matter before reviewing the most important people behind this discovery.

How Was Electricity “Discovered?”

Electricity was discovered for lack of a better word. An electric charge exists in our natural world. Within an atom, a number of electrons and protons exist powering the tiny building block of life. Protons serve as the neutral, immobile side of the current. Electrons actually move the atom with their mobile, negative charge. Only a certain number of materials conduct electric movement. This means that certain surfaces allow for the movement of electric charges. Otherwise, the electrons and protons cannot develop movement or energy to create electricity. The most commonly known conductor of electricity is metal. It’s the reason you always hear about people golfing in thunderstorms getting struck by lightening. The power to charge an electronically capable atom is strong in metal.

How Does Electricity Move?

We know the most common way to transport electricity is through wiring. Why is this? Well, electricity moves a lot like water. For example, let’s say you fill a bottle with water to the top. When you go to pour it out, it will all leave through the targeted exit point, i.e. the opening of the bottle. A wire transports electricity in a similar way. As electricity travels through a wire, it looks for its exit point. When connected correctly, electricity’s exit point is an object which uses electricity to function. All of this was discovered by a set of amazing scientists and inventors. As you can imagine, it took a lot of trial and error. Some of the biggest names in American innovation worked on electricity. Some of these names are still relevant today.

Early Historical Summary of the Brightest Minds

Electrical engineering slagged in its growth except for a few critical discoveries until the 1800s. At this time, Michael Faraday and George Ohm made new theories and observations. Later in the century, the war of currents came along scientists against scientists, pit electrical engineer against electrical engineers. During innovative times, each inventor used their wits from all walks of life. This included backgrounds and resources they might have. As you’ll see, some of the most influential electrical engineers accomplished their life’s work thanks to wealth.

The war of currents was a big deal. It started when Thomas Edison, the phonograph and light bulb inventor accepted the standard direct current power distribution method. The direct current mostly produced by dynamos and batteries, has a unidirectional electrical charge. However, all the scientists didn’t accept it. 

George Westinghouse, who had built fortunes on the American railroads and having a considerable bank account embarked the idea of alternating current- in the power transmission in the power transmission. It was a more efficient way of transmitting power.

Later on, most of the electrical engineers saw the light and accepted AC. Right before his death, Edison changed his stand.

Tesla and the Modern Influence of AC

Tesla, one of the most prolific electrical engineers in history was on the side of the AC. The inventor was an eccentric man obsessed with pigeons, and he maintained his celibacy. He worked a lot on the development of AC power. Following his remarkable did; he became a fixturein most of the modern films, science fiction, and comic books and other successful movies with electrical engineering figuring centrally in its plot.

In the 20th century, electrical engineering expanded greatly. By this time, the radio was in everyday use. Thanks to Tesla, it became more useful as electrical engineers continued to make improvements on it. The telegraph invented by Marconi made the radio useful all over the world, and it leads to the development of the first radio transmissions. The radio played the significant role of communication during the second world war.

Integrated circuits  developed in 1958, and it paved the way for electronic engineering. Later, a microprocessor came about, the personal computer and other signal control systems all with a start from static electricity.

The role of electrical engineering remains paramount in all life aspects ranging from the design and development of advanced electrical types of equipment, testing types of equipment and solving various problems. All sorts of electrical works ranging from the smallest to the biggest, such as the supercomputers. It plays a vital role in the automation of industries and control systems.

The Modern History of the Field

A lot of modern technology works with electricity, but in a way that requires no wires. How can this be possible. As mentioned above, wires serve as a guide or path for electric charges. Well, a lot of modern technology uses wires within a given output, but the connection is wireless. Telecommunications engineering, which dates back to the days of Edison, is its own sub-field now in electrical engineering. Many working in this field answer the question of turning electric connections wireless. This is possible through more modern forms of wires and cables.

Fiber Optic Cables

A popular term in electrical engineering is the concept of fiber optic cables. Fiber optic cables look a lot different from the traditional colored wires we’ve used for decades. As early as the 1930s, electric pioneers like Heinrich Lamm were using a type of cable that was more mobile. It wouldn’t move back and forth, but it was flexible. This provided it with the capability of fitting in smaller spaces. For example, early fiber optic cables were used in medical equipment. Now, we often hear them brought up in conversations about the internet.

How can cables that aren’t connected send signals to one another? Well, another key element to modern findings in the field is the idea of electric transmissions.

Wireless Transmissions Via Electricity

The radio is an old technology at this point. Many don’t even use the radio in their car, or even have one at home. That being said, the technology central to radio transmissions is still widely used today. Early radio transmissions relied on application transmissions. This essentially refers to the ability of an electric current to get amplified so other transmitters can pick it up. The connection didn’t go very far, as we can see with an FM radio connection. The hard wired connections, like ones that carry AM radio frequencies, travel much further. That being said, wireless transmissions are getting stronger each year with the study of electrical currents.

The Study of Electrical Engineering

As mentioned above, engineers can study a variety of different branches of the field. At first, a new field like electrical engineering did not have its own program. Many who studied electrical engineering early on were often rooted in mechanical systems. Now, the importance of electrical studies has shifted. Entire programs at top tier universities focus on electrical engineering. Within the study, students can focus on a number of different foci. The specific technology that is used in electrical engineering is its own field of study. Many students study electrical technology to hopefully build the next great invention. The idea of innovation is still crucial to the field.

Computer Systems

Computers are honestly an entirely different sub-sect of the field. Many students who focus on computers in their studies first think to become computer scientists. While this field is growing, so too is electrical engineering because of computers. The people who build computers don’t all come from a programming background. The wiring and wireless utilities of a computer are only possible through electrical engineering.

Mobile devices alone are growing the computer system branch of electrical studies in a major way. When you consider the role smartphones play in our lives, then you can imagine the jobs related to their production. When you think about a smartphone, you can imagine how much work goes into getting it to work. Break open a phone and you’ll find confusing connections of chips, wires, and motherboards. With any mobile phone, electricity is the only reason that the computer processor can run. Because of this, mobile technologies are a booming area of the field.


The field of electrical engineering is vast, especially given today’s technology. The world continues to be increasingly digital. With this transition comes a lot of great things for the field. For example, more resources go to electrical engineering programs than ever before. This does come with a responsibility, however. Tomorrow’s greatest feats will require great minds to work and study hard in electrical connections and science. Luckily, many are up to the task. Who knows; this article could be the start of your journey in electrical engineering.