I read Franklin started the positive negative naming convention of electricity.

Now early scientists had to pick a direction for the battery and voltmeter. I don't understand how this was done. If you allow me to add:

Edison's thermionic demonstration in 1883 shows the direction of flow from negative to positive which means he know the electricity is flowing from negative to positive even though he is using Franklin's naming convention in the battery that he hooked up to his apparatus. ( Well actually it was a schematic, I don't really have an original diagram.)

I must be not understanding some basic science because when the "true" direction was found why couldn't it have just as easily been called positive to negative to keep with Franklin's original naming convention?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How it was done? Randomly. The direction of current made no difference in calculations and experiments, and did not correspond to anything real, it was a consistency rule. For example, Ampere, who made the conventional direction a standard, thought that two different currents were running in both directions at the same time. Only later something physical was found to match with what until then was a mathematical fiction. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Jul 9, 2022 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Conifold. The blog you linked is amazing. That clears it up, This has puzzled me for a long time. I have closed the call and many thanx to all. $\endgroup$
    – Sedumjoy
    Jul 9, 2022 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


Too much to change.

Every single book, paper, instruction manual, or anything else that referred to the poles as negative and positive would have been switched.

Furthermore, anything old, if not destroyed, would potentially create confusion, and if any sizable group of people had declared that they wouldn't bother, you would have had new works, continually put out, that used the old convention, and the discrepancy would have created still more confusion.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ .....yes I think I can see my confusion now. Thank you for the insight. $\endgroup$
    – Sedumjoy
    Jul 9, 2022 at 14:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.