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A Brief History of the Power Transformer

Truth be told, modern society would not be the way it is today if not for the transformer— not the robot, but the special electrical component that’s being used in practically every home and commercial establishment today, even after centuries have passed. Have you ever wondered, however, when the contraption was first invented?

The first-ever transformer was invented in 1885 by Otto Blathy, Miksa Deri and Karoly Zipernowsky, all of whom hailed from Austria and Hungary. However, their design was rather crude and was mainly designed to perform experimental functions. It was not until a trio composed of American William Stanley, Frenchman Lucien Gaulard, and Englishman Sebastian Ferranti that the original design was perfected several years later.

The refurbished transformer was used in one of America’s most memorable moments, which is known as the Great Barrington Electrification of 1886. This small Massachusetts town was the epicenter of North America’s first AC distribution system, and was also considered a battle ground in the ongoing “War of Currents” which involved Thomas Edison, among others. In this so-called “battleground”, Edison’s DC current distribution was no match for Stanley’s AC distribution, and the residents of Great Barrington lauded Stanley’s innovation.

By the late 1880s, numerous improvements have been made to Stanley’s design. The transformer has changed a lot since then until today, and is still continually being improved by increasing efficiency and capacity while reducing its overall size.