International Standards and Conformity Assessment for all electrical, electronic and related technologies
IEC History

IEC History




Techline on CD-ROM

Techline on CD-ROM

Techline on CD-ROM


Electrotechnology, like all other kinds of science and invention, has always been a cumulative and collective activity. This means that those typically credited with innovations generally draw heavily on the knowledge of their predecessors and contemporaries. At the same time we still do typically want to pick out some particular individuals who seem to have made the greatest contribution as being the first to discover or invent something new. Those who helped them thus tend to get mentioned only in footnotes or not at all. So it is not just for reasons of limited space that this IEC timeline is not a comprehensive survey of electrotechnology. Instead of pursuing the impossible aim of writing a definitive history, what follows is a brief, evocative and largely orthodox outline of some of the key figures and moments in electrical history. An index of the people, Technical Committees and technologies included is also available.


The IEC would particularly like to thank the Institution of Engineering and Technology in the United Kingdom for their much-valued help with this project. Please see the complete list of photo credits for all who very kindly gave us permission to use their images.

For their supervisory role in ensuring historical accuracy, the IEC thanks:

  • Dr. Graeme Gooday,
  • Berris Charnley,
  • Leucha Veneer
  • Division of History & Philosophy of Science,
  • School of Philosophy,
  • University of Leeds, UK.

Design: Webspark

Artwork: Thierry Clauson

Intro animation: Andreas Tüscher


Questions or feedback

Order free copy on CD-ROM

Order your free copy and explore this interactive timeline at your leisure with any one of five different themes.


Thinkers through the ages and scientists and inventors allow you to see who made major contributions to the development of electricity and electronics from Thales in ancient Greece to Tim Berners-Lee today.


Click your way through electrotechnical history by technologies (such as electroacoustics, insulators, or connectors), by important dates in history, or by IEC technical committee in order of creation. Each timeline gives a different approach to the subject and explains who or what is important.


While it is not an exhaustive history of eletrotechnology, it is designed to provide an overview of how this science developed and the role the IEC plays.