Electric Generator: Gramme fulfils the dream of painful, cheaply produced electricity
The dynamos produced by Michael Faraday and Joseph Henry in the 1830s were little more than laboratory curiosities. It was a Belgian industrialist and electrical engineer. Zenobe Theophile Gramme (1826-1901) developed the first high voltage, smooth, direct current generator in 1869.
In 1871 Gramme and the French engineer Hippolyta Fontaine entered a manufacturing partnership. In 1873 the pair discovered that their dynamo machine was reversible and could thus be converted into an electrical motor. Their 1873 exhibit at the Vienna Exposition convinced the world of the ease of generating electricity and conversely that electricity could be reliably utilized to do heavy work.
By 1880 Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti had patented the Ferranti dynamo a machine that he developed with the help of William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin). The London Electric Supply Corporation commissioned Ferranti to design the world’s first modern power station at Deptford in England. He designed the generating plant and its building and also the system for distributing the electricity it produced. Completed in 1891, this power station supplied high voltage alternating current and the voltage being “stepped down” at street level for consumer use. The efficiency of the Ferranti system soon overcame the direct-current supply system favoured by Thomas Edison and the Westinghouse Company.
The social and commercial implications of Faraday’s revolutionary dynamo invention were huge-it was now possible to create energy in an efficient manner and distribute it on a large scale.