Electric Charge

Electric charge “is one of the basic properties of certain of elementary [atomic] particles which all matter is made of.” The charge of a particle comes in positive and negative where positive is the charge of a proton and negative is the charge of an electron. When the charges meet they either repel (like charges) or attract (different charges). The unit of charge that you measure with is a coulomb (C). All charges in our environment are multiples of a positive or negative 1.6 times 10 to -19th power.

History of Electric Charge

Studying the charge of atomic particles started long ago with theories by Newton. Newton known for his laws of motion also theorized that a particles "electric charges, and other intrinsic properties were, and what positions they occupied, the list would represent absolutely everything that could be said about the physical history of the universe; it would contain everything that existed and every event that occurred." Experiments like Ben Franklin's lighting rod also paved the way for and proved there was some charge to draw the lightning to the rod in the first place.


Application of Electric Charge

The charge of atomic particles is applied in the conservation of charge. The law states,

the charge of an isolated system cannot change. If an additional positively charged particle appears within a system, a particle with a negative charge of the same magnitude will be created at the same time; thus, the principle of conservation of charge is maintained.”

This law also applies when matter is converted into energy and disappears back into nature.

A good example of this is the lightening rod on houses to absorb the charges when struck and the nitrogen cycle. Another modern use for electric charge is a battery in electronics.


  1. Beiser, A. (1988). Physical Science (2nd Edition) . New York, NY: McGraw Hill
  2. electromagnetism. (2012). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://school.eb.com/eb/article-71588
  3. Lightning Rod. (20050. Retrieved March 3, 2012, from Idea finder website: http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/lightningrod.htm
  4. physics, philosophy of. (2012). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://school.eb.com/eb/article-283558

This WikiPage developed by Randa Taylor-2012SP
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