Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity

Series 1 - 2. The Age of Invention

Radio Times
Review by:
Patrick Mulkern

If only physics lessons in the 70s had been as engaging as this; I’ve learnt more in two hours with Professor Jim Al-Khalili than I did in two years at secondary school. This edition covers the advances of the 19th century: the discovery of electromagnetism and the invention of the telegraph and incandescent light bulb.

Al-Khalili mesmerisingly re-creates the early experiments of Michael Faraday and, as so often occurs in such histories, there’s a tale of rivalry between inventors: Edison with his low-range, safer direct current that first brought electric light to Wall Street; and Nikola Tesla, a Serbian émigré, who developed the potentially deadly alternating current.

About this programme

2/3. Jim Al-Khalili charts how scientists discovered the connection between electricity and magnetism, and explains why this breakthrough gave mankind far greater control over electrical forces. He also reveals that their findings were crucial to the development of electricity as a mass-produced source of power, leading to innovations in communications, manufacturing, transport and technology.

Cast and crew


Jim Al-Khalili


Jon Eastman
Executive Producer
Tina Fletcher-Hill
Jon Eastman
Series Producer
Steve Crabtree