Who Invented the DC Motor?

In 1886 Frank Julian Sprague invented the first practical DC motor, a non-sparking motor capable of constant speed under variable loads. Other Sprague electric inventions about this time greatly improved grid electric distribution (prior work done while employed by Thomas Edison), allowed power from electric motors to be returned to the electric grid, provided for electric distribution to trolleys via overhead wires and the trolley pole, and provided controls systems for electric operations. This allowed Sprague to use electric motors to invent the first electric trolley system in 1887–88 in Richmond VA, the electric elevator and control system in 1892, and the electric subway with independently powered centrally controlled cars, which was first installed in 1892 in Chicago by the South Side Elevated Railway where it became popularly known as the “L”. Sprague’s motor and related inventions led to an explosion of interest and use in electric motors for industry, while almost simultaneously another great inventor was developing its primary competitor, which would become much more widespread. A prototype induction motor was demonstrated in Europe in 1885 by Galileo Ferraris.Ferraris published his findings in 1888.

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