UK Government/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons
Although the war was the first to be fought on land, air, and sea, WWI battleships especially benefited from advancements in electricity. Signaling lamps, helm indicators, fire alarms, remote-controlled bulkhead doors, whistles, and the remotely controlled reading of water levels in boilers were all electrically operated. In addition, electricity was used to turn guns and turrets, and lift ammunition from the magazines up to the guns.
Kuratle – Swiss Federal Archives/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
Incandescent and carbon-arc searchlights proved to be game changers during WWI. Crucial for nighttime navigation, long-range daytime signaling, and illuminating enemy ships in night battles, searchlights blinded enemy troops to help torpedo boats navigate closer to enemy ships. They were also used to help spot warplanes, which were being used for the first time in history to bomb cities, ports, and factories.
Nationaal Archief/Collectie Spaarnestad/Het Leven/Wikimedia Commons
In 1915, a 2,000V electric fence, consisting of three lines of wires, was erected along the Belgian-Dutch border. Known as Dodendraad or the Wire of Death, power to the fence was supplied from factories or small generators near the border. After the armistice, the electric fence was immediately demolished by locals.
Mobile X-Ray Machine
Eve Curie/Wikimedia Commons
Rifles, machine guns, artillery, mortars, and flamethrowers led to millions of human injuries, increasing demand for a relatively new medical diagnostic tool — the X-ray machine. To bring this once-cumbersome technology to the battlefield, Marie Curie invented the “radiological car” — a vehicle containing an X-ray machine and photographic darkroom equipment. Because electric power was needed to produce X-rays, Curie incorporated a dynamo (a type of electrical generator) into the car’s design.
Unknown author/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons
Did you know not a single American-made tank ever saw service during WWI? Nevertheless, between 1917 and 1918, the Holt Manufacturing Co. and the General Electric Co. collaborated to invent the Holt gas-electric tank — the first prototype tank built in the United States. As the name suggests, the tank used a gasoline engine connected to an electric generator to provide power to its various parts. Prone to overheating and lacking maneuverability, the machine was the only one of its kind built.
By Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons
By the end of the war, half of Berlin’s children suffered from rickets (a softening or weakening of skeletal bones). Dr. Kurt Huldschinsky, noticing his young patients were unusually pale, placed them under mercury-quartz lamps, which emit ultraviolet (UV) light. The bones of Huldschinsky’s patients eventually grew stronger. Long story short: The doctor’s research proved Vitamin D is needed to fortify bones with calcium — a process triggered by UV light. Sunlamps were also used early throughout the war to help treat soldiers’ wounds.