A Blog on the history of electrical wire.


Thomas Edison

This week is the 170’th birthday of Thomas Edison inventor and all-round scientific superstar. But where would he be without the humble electrical wire?

Often overlooked but without the vital important role that insulated electrical wire played in the development of electrical devices the modern electrical / electronic revolution would have never been able to take place.

The first electrical cables were un-insulated and it soon became apparent that without some sort of insulating material the ability to use multiple wires or to have large current wires would be problematic.

Rope twine was one of the first insulating materials but was time consuming to weave around the bare copper wires and was soon replaced by other easier to manufacture materials.

Here is a timeline of the mass produced insulation materials:

  • 1810 Unvulcanised Rubber
  • 1816 Glass Tubes
  • 1841 Gutta Percha (a form of natural latex)
  • 1844 Vulcanised Rubber – Goodyear Patent
  • 1879 Parafined Jute& Vulcanised Bitumen
  • 1880 Natural Rubber
  • 1884 Paper Cable (vegetable fibre)
  • 1885 Oil Impregnated Paper
  • 1933 PVC First used in cable insulation
  • 1942 Polyethylene (PE) Developed
  • 1970 Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Cables


There have of course been many other materials used and some short lived others used as specialist applications.  This is just an overview of the various common materials used and I hope you found it interesting!

Just for fun watch this video of some cable being made!

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