The ACUPWR Papers

A Brief History of Transformers

The electrical transformer deserves credit as one of the most important inventions of the industrial age, which along with steam power, running water, gas lighting, includes the harnessing of electricity. In fact, the latter would not be accomplished without the transformer. 

At its essence, the transformer lives up to its name by transforming (or converting) electrical energy from a higher voltage to a lower one. There are hundreds of different transformer types designed to handle extremely high voltages and lower ones and everything inbetween. The complexity of transformers run deep, with models designed to handle different electrical types (single or multiple phases) and applications that include radio transmission. The voltage transformer and converter that we make at ACUPWR are step up and step down types that match electrical appliances and devices with their line voltage requirements, particularly when used in a country or region where the AC line voltage is different.

Electrical transformers trace their lineage to the English scientist and inventor Michael Faraday and his discovery of the law of electro-magnetic induction. Also known as Faraday’s Law, the theory describes the phenomena of electrical voltage generated when a coil of wire was wrapped around an iron core. That current would flow through the iron to an opposite side (the iron was shaped not unlike a donut), and current with different voltage could be created using wire that had more or fewer turns. Thus, the electricity was induced. American scientist Joseph Henry is also credited with inventing the concept of electromagnetic induction.

But, like many life-altering, revolutionary inventions, credit for the electrical transformer does not belong to one particular person. Rather, using Faraday’s Law as their guiding mantra, a succession of inventers made inroads toward what became the first truly usable, commercial transformer—usable, at least, in a way that revolutionized people’s lives. In 1836, Rev. Nicholas Callan developed an induction coil transformer that helped him develop a high-voltage battery (capable of powering a machine that could lift 2 tons) that was mass-produced in London.

Other names factor in, each doing a bit more to apply Faraday’s law and magnetic induction coils. In 1876, a Russian, Pavel Yablochov, invented a lighting system based on the inductance coil. Lucien Gaulard and John Gibbs, from France and England respectively, devised a transformer and secondary generator in England that revolutionized AC (alternating current) power. In 1884, three physicists from Austria-Hungary--Otto Blathy, Miksa Déri, Karol Zipernowski, pioneered the transformer designs that are still used today. ZBD, as the trio is known, also created the world’s first power station using AC generators. Thomas Edison, purchased ZBD’s innovations to help create power utilities and electrical grids in cities. Meanwhile, Edison’s rival, American inventor George Westinghouse, purchased the rights to Gaulard’s invention. In 1886, William Stanley created a practical AC transformer based on Gaulard’s invention. Teaming up with Westinghouse, Stanley, at Westinghouse’s behest, relocated to Great Barrington, Massachusetts to create an electrical grid using AC.

Stanley’s innovation of creating power distribution in Great Barrington was a revolutionary development leading to Westinghouse’s preferred AC power being the standard in the United States to supply electricity in cities, winning out over Thomas Edison and his preferred choice of DC (direct current). Of course, everybody wins out in the end, especially when they use ACUPWR transformers for converting line voltages.

  • Chris kelvin says...

    thanks a lot

    On April 22, 2016

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